Sci-fi space twist on emergency stairs.
”Machine sense of orientation” by Monica Hernandez. 2022.

Designing for Space Robots, A Machine Point of View?

Design and engineering considerations must have an inclusive, participatory process between robots as partners and the broader society. And at the same, it will be critical to start designing for space from a machine point of view.

Monica Hernandez


Design thinking for space. I wrote about this before. It's a fact that design is critical for space missions because utility is only part of the equation. Systems that operate with the appropriate functionality, harmony, beauty, and aesthetics will improve human performance, productivity, and ultimately our livelihood in space as good design does on Earth. I've developed a recent interest in how design relates to space robotics. Humans strongly depend on visual cues, but designing for autonomous and semi-autonomous sensory-guided robots in space raises the question: is there a need to create a new discipline that designs for space robots?

I'm not a roboticist, so I don't have the technical clarity on what is and isn't critical in the engineering and design phases. Still, I know that image classification and object detection are essential for autonomy, learning, and decision-making in sensory-guided robots. In addition, advances in computer vision, machine learning, and materials hardware have substantially optimized autonomous systems in decades. But, given environmental variables and changes, it's tough to elicit/program desired behaviors in machines. And this dynamic gets complicated even further in unpredictable and unstructured environments, unlike industrial settings where autonomous systems might be programmed to continue to produce the same result with present inputs.

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