This AI-Powered Robot Will Build Homes for Humans on Mars
Five years ago, colonizing Mars was a pipe dream, but now even IKEA is getting in on it. NASA is developing new power sources for bases, and construction plans for a deep-space gateway are already underway.
One question keeps popping up, though: Who will build homes for the colonists?
It turns out the German Aerospace Center (part of the Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics) has been working on this question for several years, and their answer is "a six-foot-tall robot named Justin."
Justin (also known by its full name, 'Rollin' Justin') is a four-fingered bot on wheels designed to help with household tasks, as well as construction and maintenance. According to the official website:
"Rollin' Justin's compliant light-weight arms and four-finger hands make it an ideal platform for research into sensitive, ambidextrous manipulation. The mobile base allows autonomous operation over a long range. Motion detection sensors and stereo cameras enable 3D reconstruction of the robot's environment. Unstructured, variable and dynamic environments require the robot to act independently and without human support. On the other hand, the robot must be able to work safely with people. Its multiple actuated degrees of freedom allow Rollin' Justin to pursue several goals at the same time..."
Because Justin is equipped with remarkably advanced AI, it can carry out tasks without human supervision—meaning that even if communications are cut, Justin will keep working.
Here he is in action:
Of course, there are alternatives to building permanent homes with the help of robots like Justin.
One of the major downsides of having a robotic workforce (or a 3-D-printed house) is that the machinery has a strong likelihood of breaking down in the Martian environment, meaning more resources and machinery will be needed to repair it all. Sci-fi writer Morgan Gendel came up with a different strategy: inflatable Mars habitats.
Whatever strategy wins the race to build homes on Mars, we just hope the colonists don't go space-crazy on the way there.