NASA’s new robot is named Valkyrie, is 6.2 feet tall, weighs 275 pounds, and has a name inspired by god-like females of Norse myth. The robot has been built to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), where it would be required to do several maneuvers like driving a utility vehicle, walking over uneven terrain, clearing debris, breaking through a wall, closing a valve, and connecting a fire hose. The humanoid Valkyrie looks all fit for the job description.
Valkyrie has 44 degrees of freedom, meaning the robot has axis of rotation in its joints that allow it to maneuver freely and make it a flexible machine. Cameras are placed in Valkyrie’s head, arm, abdomen, and leg so operators can freely see what the robot is doing and maneuver it appropriately. In addition, it is equipped with Sonar and LIDAR to ensure better movement.
The Iron Man-like glowing chest ring is a nice touch, though it also has a function of containing linear actuators for waist rotation. Batteries for Valkyrie are carried in its backpack and usually require a change after an hour of function. Additionally, the robot’s arms are interchangeable and removable, allowing for greater flexibility in operations. According to NASA, the robot arm can be removed in about a minute.
Requirements for the DRC are geared towards situations and disasters where robots might lend a helping hand in hazardous situations like nuclear power plant accidents or disaster relief. So it is quite obvious that the machines would be required to manipulate objects and navigate uneven terrains.
NASA sees the requirements of the challenge as those coinciding with its own. A robot like Valkyrie could be immensely useful in handling operations of space colonization, for example, on Mars. The robots would be sent to prepare for landing of humans, and when the human explorers arrive, both robots and humans could work together on the new land.
Valkyrie was developed by NASA in collaboration with University of Texas and Texas A&M University.