Over the weekend, TechCrunch reported on an exclusive piece NASA was testing a robot that could someday prepare human settlements in other planets. Valkyrie (R5) is that unit, and its accomplishments point at a future as a pioneer in Mars.
The agency is carrying out tests for its Valkyrie robot in Lowell, Massachusetts. There are three additional units under the care of scientists in Northeastern University, MIT, and the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland.
Valkyrie is just one of the many projects NASA has on its hands to continue developing alternatives to travel, reach, and hopefully stay in Mars come the time we send humans to the Red Planet.
Scientists are training the Valkyrie (R5) at NERVE
While the design of the robot resembles mech units straight from anime series, Valkyrie is actually something way closer to a real human. At their Lowell facilities, NASA is training the Valkyrie on different grounds than other institutions.
Similarly, Northwestern University and MIT’s initiatives are imbuing their units with knowledge and basics on how to perform different actions and carry out different tasks. Ultimately, the goal is to train robots to be first settlers in other planets.
“THEY’VE DON ALL OF THE HARDWARE AND WE’RE DEVELOPING THESE HIGH-LEVEL CAPABILITIES SO VALKYRIE DOES MORE THAN JUST MOVE LIMBS. SHE CAN AUTONOMOUSLY MAKE DECISIONS, MOVE AROUND, AND ACCOMPLISH TASKS,” said a Ph.D. student from Northwestern.
The University recently moved their robot to the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) campus, in order to put it to the test in conditions that are more similar to those of other planets.
These facilities have dedicated obstacle courses designed with daily challenges in mind such as testing bipedal locomotion abilities, trying out Valkyrie’s 3D vision system, and making use of its limbs for more delicate tasks like carrying and moving objects.
Wha is Space Robotics Challenge?
The Space Robotics Challenge is a contest that will reward one of the developing teams $1 million. NASA will bestow the prize upon the first robot that manages to complete a virtual challenge which takes place on a simulation of Mars’ surface.
— AIVAnet (@aivanet) March 20, 2017
Valkyrie robots will have to perform complex actions like realigning a communications antenna, repairing a leak of air in the habitat intended for humans, and installing a new solar panel that has been damaged overnight during a dust storm.
There are 20 teams participating in the Space Robotics Challenge, including NASA itself and the three higher-education institutions.
Although this is as real as it gets for the people on the teams, Valkyrie R5s may become obsolete by the time we actually need them in Mars or other planets.