Sunday, March 19, 2017

NASA's Valkyrie Robo Prepares to Go to Mars

Valkyrie is a humanoid robo and that seemed unusual at first since wouldn't you want a robo to have six wheels or some such to deal with hostile terrain.  It seems so but take a look at Valkyrie demonstrating range of motion as this brings a new world of 'droid dance capability.

Valkyrie is not like the robos from the old movies in which they were so slow you could hear the servos grinding them through their moves.  Valkyrie is slick and smooth and has a full range of motion right down to the precise movement of her fingertips.

NASA’s Robonauts are being put to the test in Mars-like obstacle courses in order to pave the way for future humanoid space exploration and help bridge the expansive gap between Earth and human colonization of the red planet.

NASA built four six-foot, 290-pound, Iron man-like pieces of machinery named Valkyrie, at the cost of about $2 million each, and then outsourced three of them to universities to test the robot’s capabilities in various hostile environments.

RT:  NASA’s humanoid robot put to the test for ultimate Mars challenge

The general premise is NASA will send these 'droids to Mars first and they will assemble whatever infrastructure is needed to make it possible for humans to survive there.

She can autonomously make decisions, move around and accomplish tasks,” said Northeastern PhD student, Murphy Wonsick to TechCrunch.

In theory, the successors to these Robonauts would help facilitate the colonization of Mars by building the necessities humans need before their arrival and further assisting the astronauts with tasks while on the red planet.

- RT

What do you know.  She's a female.

Unknown if this can match watching a NASCAR event but the competition between different schools for best 'bot could be interesting.

The robot’s ultimate Mars test will take place this summer when 20 teams will compete for a $1 million prize in NASA’s Space Robotics Challenge, designed to place Valkyrie in a Martian-like scenario. 

“In the not too distant future, R5 has arrived on Mars along with supplies ahead of a human mission. Overnight a dust storm damaged the habitat and solar array, and caused the primary communication antenna to become misaligned,” the agency’s simulated event suggests.

The robot must repair the damage, deploy a new solar panel and align the communication antenna to complete the challenge.

- RT

If I read that correctly, all of those tasks must be analyzed and managed autonomously so that makes her one seriously smart 'droid.  Some of those 'droids will probably blow a gasket at the gate but others won't and this view of machine intelligence really could be interesting.

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