Human and Robotic Connection

How can we better connect robotics and human space exploration?

Despite tremendous technological progress in space exploration, human cognition, dexterity and ingenuity is still the deciding factor behind the success of any mission.

Low-gravity environments in space pose a multitude of challenges to astronauts. Even seemingly simple motor skills such as grasping, locomotion, or lifting an object can become particularly challenging in such environments. At the same time, it is critical to exercise in space in order to avoid bone and muscle loss. In this project, we are investigating symbiotic human-robot interaction in order to assist astronauts in their activities while also maintaining healthy body function. In particular we are developing Space HeSA (Hip Exoskeleton for Superior Assistance), a lightweight assistive, robotic device for space exploration. Space HeSA uses state-of-the-art machine learning methods in order to interpret human intentions and proactively engage in current tasks.

Key Accomplishments 

We have developed a first prototype of the Space HeSA. The prototype can be worn through a belt and assists human users in lifting tasks. Sensor readings from accelerometers are used to interpret the user’s actions and respond accordingly. Intention inference is performed using Interaction Primitives – a machine learning methodology for representing and reasoning over human movements. In addition, verbal commands by the astronaut are also recognized and used to switch between different modes. New robotics technology developed within this project of the Interplanetary Initiative is also used to improve quality of work and life on earth. 


Heni Ben Amor
Assistant Professor, School of Computing Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, ASU

Heather Ross
Clinical Assistant Professor, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, ASU

Sangram Redkar
Polytechnic School, ASU

Thomas Sugar
Polytechnic School, ASU