Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) has been hosting a DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) since last year that challenged some participants to create robots that can be used in the real world. Space agency NASA accepted the challenge and hence, had been building a humanoid rescue robot named Valkyrie. Lately, NASA has unveiled Valkyrie. It looks like Iron Man.
The DARPA Robotics Challenge contest has been designed to make the life-saving robot of tomorrow. The DRC contest consists of several difficult tasks. The robot must:
- Drive an ATV or other similar utility vehicle, operating all the controls, ignition, steering and brakes.
- Walk across uneven, debris-strewn terrain.
- Clear a rock or cinder block from a doorway, turn a handle and open a door.
- Climb a ladder and move across a catwalk (potentially one of the trickiest tasks, because a human would have to use arms and legs to do this).
- Break open a concrete wall, like the drilling robot is doing in the image above.
- Find and fix a leaking pipe, as the other robot is doing in the picture.
- Remove and replace a small pump.
Based on the given conditions, NASA became interested in making such a robot as it wants to eventually send robots to Mars ahead of humans, and the DARPA challenge is providing data on how the agency can do it. As a result, NASA started to make Valkyrie. Note that NASA officially calls Valkyrie as R5 and it is a female robot.
However, Valkyrie or R5 is 1.9-meter (6-foot 2-inch) tall and weighs 125 kilograms (275-pound). The robot has 44 degrees of freedom and is powered by batteries. There is a glowing circle at the center of its chest like Iron Man.
Valkyrie’s two cannon-like arms are interchangeable, and its legs are designed to walk over rough, uneven terrain. The robot can tilt and swivel its head, rotate its waist, and has knees and legs that can bend. It is loaded with cameras on its head, body, forearms, knees, and feet and sonar sensors to help it move through rubble and avoid obstacles.
NASA has built this humanoid robot for disaster. It has been created in cooperation with the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, the University of Texas, and Texas A&M universities. Funding for the robot has been provided by the State of Texas. Here’s a video of Valkyrie.
At present, NASA is operating this robot via remote, but the agency’s ultimate goal is to make Valkyrie as autonomous as possible. The first competition for the DARPA robotics contest will happen later this month. So keep an eye on us to get further updates.
Source: IEEE Spectrum