Work at General Motors

In addition to the mathematical work described in my research publications, I earn my keep, so to speak, by helping GM develop and deploy applications of robotics and related technologies in our manufacturing facilities. An important thrust has been the use of programmable tooling in the production of automotive bodies, allowing flexible production of multiple body styles on the same equipment and faster introduction of new models. A top concern is making this equipment accurate, so that our vehicles are of the highest quality, which effort is connected to my research in robot calibration.

Recently, I was a member of the GM/NASA team that developed Robonaut2, a.k.a. R2, a humanoid robotic torso. With two 7-DOF (degrees of freedom) arms and highly dexterous hands, it has the capacity to closely mimic human motion. Replete with over 350 motion and force sensors, the robot is an outstanding platform for work in autonomous dexterous manipulation and human interaction. While NASA has sent R2 into space to work alongside of astronauts, and may send its successors as part of a precursor mission to prepare a site for a manned mission, GM has hopes of someday using Robonaut derivatives in manufacturing. Spin-off technologies may find their way into our products, such as in vehicle safety systems.


Robonaut2 is the product of a NASA and General
Motors robotics partnership.

Robonaut2 testing
Robonaut2 is designed to
work safely with humans.

Check out some early Robonaut2 videos here.

Read "A Giant Leap for Humanoid Kind" about Robonaut2 at M.I.T.'s Technology Review (February 2010).

On April 14, 2010, we announced that Robonaut 2 was to be transported to the International Space Station on the last flight of space shuttle Discovery (STS-133 mission). After a scrubbed launch in November 2010, R2 headed for ISS on February 24, 2011 and was subsequently installed in the station's Destiny laboratory.

After a full check-out of R2's motion capabilities in a zero-g environment, the first humanoid-to-human handshake in space took place on February 15, 2012. Expediton 30 Commander Dan Burbank reported, "For the record, it was a firm handshake."


First humanoid-to-human handshake in space.

R2 and friend
R2 and friend on earth.

For more details, visit NASA's Robonaut website.

Charles Wampler homepage.