Feeds

Meet NASA's Valkyrie: A SILKY BUSTY ROBO-MINX that'll save your life

Space agency thinks with its Johnson, builds Iron (wo)Man for Mars colony

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Video NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) has revealed its entry into the $2m DARPA Robotics Challenge, which will start later this month. The result is a robot dubbed Valkyrie that's designed to look like a sexy superhero.

Valkyrie robot cleavage

'My eyes are up here, thank you'

The 1.9-metre tall, 125kg droid has interchangeable arms that can be swapped out by removing a single bolt and connector, and three fingers and a thumb on each hand that exceed a human's in strength. It also has an impressive cleavage, thanks to the linear actuators that allow it to swivel, and a glowing NASA icon that looks straight out of Iron Man.

The bipedal robot is built to operate under human control and uses head-mounted stereoscopic cameras and laser range-finding equipment to help its operators find where it's going. A sonar system is also built into the torso, and the robot carries its own hot-swappable two kilowatt-hour battery backpack that's good for 60 minutes of operation.

Valkyrie robot head

'Sarah Connor?'

Val, as the robot is known to its builders, will compete for a $2m cash prize from the US military's research and development laboratory in its Robotics Challenge: the goal is to create a robot that can operate in environments built for humans, and conduct search and rescue missions where we fleshy mortals can't safely go.

The competing bots will have to drive a truck to the test site, walk over rubble-strewn floors, open doors, climb ladders and stairs, open and close industrial valves, connect and operate a fire hose – and, if necessary, smash through walls to reach its target and return it to the vehicle.

Val is part of the A team entries, where groups build their own robots to get the job done. B and C teams will use a six-foot two-inch tall ATLAS humanoid robot built by Boston Dynamics. ATLAS' body is protected by a steel cage, but with Team Val wanted a more human feel so clothed the robot in soft fabrics.

See for yourself, here:

Youtube video of the Val robot

"Our robot is soft. If you brush against it while you're working, you don't want to feel this cold, hard metal," JSC team leader Nicolaus Radford told IEEE Spectrum. "You want it to feel natural, like you're working next to another human being. The soft goods, the clothes we put on the robot, give it that feel, that appearance of being more comfortable to be near."

The clothes do have apertures for cameras other than those on Val's head. The robot has cameras built into its forearms (so operators can see what the hands are manipulating) as well as secondary systems built into the thighs and shins for navigation.

But it's not all serious. The glowing chest piece emblazoned with NASA's logo seems to serve little purpose other than making the robot resemble the popular comic (and latterly film) character Iron Man.

Valkyrie robot orb

Marvel Comics' lawyers may double-take at this

"If it's worth doing, it's worth doing cool," said Radford. "[Valkyrie] has a little bit of a superhero feel to it, because honestly, that's what DARPA's requesting: they want a superhero robot."

DARPA's first trials will take place later this month in Florida to winnow out weaker entries. Judging by some of the problems faced by other teams, there will be a lot of entrants falling by the wayside, but the JSC team feels they've got a winner on their hands.

Even if JSC doesn't win the big prize, the team wants to use Val – or future revisions – as part of a NASA attempt to get humanoid robots on Mars. These droids would be used for exploration, but also to help set up a Martian base for human visitors.

"When the humans arrive, the robots and the humans will work together in conjunction building habs, laying foundations, and working together in a tight relationship," Radford said. "Technologies such as Valkyrie are really going to lead into the types of robotic systems that will one day be the precursor missions before the astronauts go to Mars." ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The hidden costs of self-signed SSL certificates
Exploring the true TCO for self-signed SSL certificates, including a side-by-side comparison of a self-signed architecture versus working with a third-party SSL vendor.