NASA has created a robot for DARPA's upcoming Robotics Challenge Trials. The Valkyrie is a 6-foot-2-inch humanoid machine with detachable arms, sonar sensors, mounted cameras, and a glowing Tony Stark-esque circle in the middle of its chest. The space agency says it's mobile and dexterous enough to enter disaster zones to provide search and rescue functions.
Project and group lead for NASA JSC's Dextrous Robotics Lab, Nicolaus Radford, tells IEEE Spectrum that Valkyrie was designed specifically for the DARPA competition. Strong legs mean the robot's capable of moving around "degraded environments" typical of disaster-stricken areas, and cameras mounted on its head, body, forearms, knees, and feet, allow it to provide visual information back to its handlers. Extra data can be provided by the robot's sonar and lidar units. Unlike DARPA's own Atlas robot, Valkyrie doesn't require a tether, running instead on a 2kWh battery stored on the machine's back.
Valkyrie builds on the space agency's previous humanoid robot, Robonaut, currently in orbit around the Earth in the International Space Station. Robonaut, built to work in zero-gravity environments, was the size and shape of a bulky humanoid torso. Valkyrie's powerful legs and lighter frame make it better adapted for operating on Earth.