NASA's Valkyrie Robot – an Overview

NASA

The Valkyrie robot platform was initially built in 2013. It was made by NASA. The main objective behind the creation of Valkyrie was to design a humanoid robot which would be capable enough to assist people in man-made or natural disaster rescue operations. This robot could traverse obstacle courses, use tools, drive vehicles and perform a number of tasks that are required in disaster rescue operations. Valkyrie's software was developed in collaboration with IHMC.

 

Appearance

The Valkyrie robot was made by NASA for their entry into the DRC (Darpa Robotics Challenge), 2014. The robot, at first glance, may look similar to the famous comic-book character Iron man. The robot has a height of about 6 ft and weight of 290 pounds (approx.). The most striking attribute of Valkyrie is its sleek white shell (a foam armor) which protects the robot from shocks and bumps. The foam armor not only makes the robot aesthetically appealing but also makes the workers feel comfortable to work around the robot. Nicholas Radford, the project leader of Valkyrie said,“If you brush against it while you're working, you don't want to feel this cold, hard metal. You want it to feel natural, like you're working next to another human being." That's another desirable feature of the foam armor.

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The Appearance of Valkyrie robot

Image courtesy- https://spectrum.ieee.org/image/MjQyMzMzNA

A brief Description

The robot is a thirty-two DOF (Degree Of Freedom) walking robot. The 32 DOF of the robot consist of two 7 Degree Of Freedom arms, two 6 Degree Of Freedom legs, one 3 Degree Of Freedom neck, one 3 Degree Of Freedom waist. Valkyrie's chest is curved which helps to accommodate the actuators, thereby allowing the robot to arch at its waist. The robot carries a backpack comprising of batteries that serve as the power-source. The robot is built in a manner which allows an easy replacement of its arms as well as legs with the use of a small number of bolts. NASA expects to use Valkyrie in various projects related to space exploration and research.

The robot was made with the goal of being autonomous as much as possible. The robot has a number of sensors, LIDAR (located inside the robot's head), sonar and cameras. Valkyrie also consists of 2 on-board computers.

On-board computers

The platform of Valkyrie consists of 2 high level on-board computers. The computers are collectively known as 'Brainstem'. The 2 computers are individually known as 'Link' & 'Zelda'.

The computer known as the Link is situated on Valkyrie's right side, right under its right arm. Zelda is situated on Valkyrie's left side, right under its left arm.

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Position of Link & Zelda

Image courtesy- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/wiki/NASA-JSC-Robotics/valkyrie/images/val_processor_layout.png

Sensors

The sensors are classified into 3 categories:

Ring LED

Ring LED is located in the middle of the robot's chest. The flashing cum rotating colors of the Ring LED convey the operating status of Valkyrie to the user. These are explained below:

  • Rotating Rainbow

The booting process is initiated.

  • Rotating Red

The booting process is completed and the robot is ready but communication is still not established with any computer.

  • Rotating White

Robot has established communication and it's also ready to switch on its motor power and logic.

  • Rotating Green

The logic is powered on but the motor is still powered off.

  • Rotating Purple

The logic is powered on. The motor is going through the process of being powered on.

  • Rotating Royal Blue

The logic is powered on. The motor is also powered on but the power is drawn from tether.

  • Rotating Light Blue

The logic and the motor are powered on, and the power is drawn from the battery.

  • Rotating Orange

The robot has turned off its motor power.

The pictures corresponding to the above-mentioned colors can be found here.

You can go through this short video to see Valkyrie in action.

Future prospects

NASA believes that Valkyrie might be beneficial for space exploration and research projects in future. They reckon that robots like Valkyrie can conduct base operations, thereby permitting astronauts to concentrate on other important tasks, like inspecting geological formations and other similar activities. Nicolaus Radford said to IEEE,“NASA saw considerable overlap in what the DRC is trying to accomplish, in NASA's goals as an agency, and in our vision for space exploration. NASA wants to get to Mars, and in order to get to Mars, NASA will likely send robots ahead of the human explorers. These robots will start preparing the way for the humans, and when the humans arrive, the robots and the humans will work together. Technologies like Valkyrie, and the other advancements that the DRC is making, are feeding directly into programs that NASA sees as critical for long-term human space exploration.

There's no doubt that these type of humanoid robots that have been a part of the fictitious world have gained prominence in the present world. The collaborative work between the humans and the robots should transform the world into a better and a safer place.

FUTURITE

Futurite aims to bring high quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education to school students in India. Our mission is to use cutting-edge technologies such as Robotics and 3D Printing to impart a thorough grounding in STEM subjects and concepts to school students while making their learning experience fun, engaging and hands-on. Futurite has been operating in Dubai successfully (as Premier Genie) since a number of years, working with over 25 of the top international schools and teaching 1000+ students. Futurite has been founded by alumni from IIT, IIM, JU and HEC Paris.

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