The Valkyrie robot designed by NASA is taking shape, and that form is surprisingly human. This robot, built in the image of humans, could help lead the way to Mars. The units are also surprisingly modular, providing several advantages over previous designs.
This humanoid robot, also known as R5, has recently been updated by designers and sent to research facilities in the United States and Europe. Copies of the current version are known as Unit Ds.
"The NASA Valkyrie is one of the most advanced humanoid robots in the world ... Valkyrie will enable breakthroughs in humanoid control, motion planning and perception," The University of Edinburgh reported. This is one of the institutions granted use of a Valkyrie for research purposes.
The R5 is designed to carry out vital tasks in environments deadly to human beings. In the short term, these humanoid robots could venture into disaster scenes that threaten human lives. In the longer term, however, designers hope the R5 will be capable of traveling to Mars and other alien landscapes. These robots could prepare a landing spot, readying a region of the Red Planet for human occupation.
Valkyrie was designed to look like a human in order for people with limited experience dealing with robots to have an easier time interacting with the mechanical units. The robot is as large as an adult male, standing 5' 9" tall and weighing in at 275 pounds. With a humanoid shape and size, the units will also be able to operate side by side with people without requiring any special accommodations.
The robot is easy to take apart for travel and reassemble after the unit arrives at its intended destination. Limbs of the robot can be easily switched out and replaced following damage. The two arms are identical, so right and left arms may be interchanged. Valkyrie is powered by a removable battery on its back that lasts around one hour on a single charge. This power pack can be replaced by a human in just a few minutes.
In 2015, NASA promised to provide three of the units to universities in the United States, as well as a handful in Europe, hoping the robot will learn new skills.
The first model of the Valkyrie robot debuted to the public in December 2013.