U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researchers have developed Valkyrie, a humanoid robot that will one day explore and study Mars.
Valkyrie is more than six feet tall, weighs 286 pounds, and has an 80-inch wingspan. "It feels human-like, you can look her in the eyes," says NASA's Reg Berka.
The researchers currently are preparing Valkyrie for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Robotics Challenge Finals. "We knew it was going to take until the finals until this complex machine was going to be able to really perform," Berka says.
The researchers developed Valkyrie's hardware and software separately, not phasing the software into the system until the very end of the development process. "In order for that to happen, it was a testament to the automation tools, both hardware and software," Berka says.
The researchers control the robot using a series of video cameras, laser scanners, and ultrasonics that provide them with a detailed view of the surroundings. In addition, three computers inside Valkyrie's chest serve to determine what the robot should be doing, and then command the joints to carry out those movements. A person controls Valkyrie's computers behind the scenes.
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