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NASA wants your ideas for its cube robot's arm

You could decide the future of a robotic space station companion.

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Think you could build a better robot arm than NASA? You now have a chance to prove it. The agency is teaming up with Freelancer to crowdsource ideas for the arm on Astrobee, a cute cube robot that will float around the International Space Station monitoring conditions and supplies. The first phase will have NASA pick the top 30 entries that meet some basic criteria. If you pass muster, you'll be asked to break down the architecture options for your design. Do that and NASA will run another crowdsourcing effort to solicit ideas for the subcomponents from those 30 submissions. Phew.

That relatively drawn-out process should be worth it. Even without the arm, Astrobee should free astronauts from the drudgery of some simple tasks aboard the ISS -- the limb should make the crew's life that much easier. And NASA has had success tapping Freelancer before, whether it's training Robonaut 2's image recognition system or designing an astronaut smartwatch app. It won't be easy to get in (there are nearly 1,500 submissions as I write this), but the prestige could be worth the effort.

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