Hero Valkyrie: NASA Unveils a 6-foot Humanoid Rescue Robot

Thursday, 12 Dec 2013 10:15 AM

By Michael Mullins

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NASA's Hero Valkyrie  humanoid, a 6-foot, 266-pound robot designed to save people on earth in disaster scenarios while also being able to walk among astronauts at future space expeditions, was unveiled Tuesday by engineers at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The Valkyrie is the newest contestant in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a competition in which robot systems and software teams from around the world compete against one another in a course designed to measure their robot's ability to assist humans in natural and man-made disasters.

According to its entry page, the Valkyrie has a "full body design that can intervene in terrestrial disaster scenarios, but also walk on Mars."

"We really wanted to design the appearance of this robot to be one that was just, when you saw it, it would be 'wow, that's awesome,'" Valkyrie project leader Nicolaus Radford said in a promotional video.

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According to Radford, the Valkyrie's power comes from its two-kilowatt hour battery which is located on the robot's back in the shape of a backpack, which can be switched out in a matter of minutes.

Cameras have been placed throughout the robot from head to two, allowing its controllers to see images and collect data from any view as the robot is sent into a scenario to help humans, Radford added.

"We want to get to Mars, likely NASA will send robots ahead of the astronauts to the planet," Radford added. "These robots will start preparing the way for human explorers and when the humans arrive the robots and the humans will work together in conjunction building [habitats], laying foundation and just working together in that tight relationship."

The Valkyrie will face off against five other robots in a trial competition between Dec. 20 and 21 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, where they will go "through eight individual, physical tasks that test mobility, manipulation, dexterity, perception, and operator control mechanisms," according to the DARPA Robotics Challenge website.

The six robots initially faced off in a June 2013 simulated robot competition in which 26 entries competed for six slots.

The final trial will be held at the end of 2014, at which time the winning team will receive a $2 million prize.

Other robots that will be competing for the grand prize is the RoboSimian, a long-limbed bipedal robot designed by the NASA Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, Calif., and the Thor robot, a tactical hazardous operations robot designed by engineers at Virginia Tech.

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