Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A new step in robotics




I chose the robot image above for a reason.

Seldom do our imaginary depictions of robots turn into reality.  But that may be changing.  Note the resemblance between the Terminator and Atlas from Boston Dynamics (which I thought I blogged about but I somehow didn't.)  Now, NASA has unveiled a six-foot robot named Valkyrie that comes complete with glowing chest ring similar to that of Iron Man.

Yeah yeah, I know.  Iron Man is not a robot, but stick with me on this.

The Valkyrie has 44 axes of rotation in its joints, meaning its fairly flexible.  Unlike Atlas, the other robot entered in DARPA's Robotics Challenge, NASA seems naturally less interested in military applications and more focused on how Valkyrie can serve space exploration.

"We want to get to Mars. Likely, NASA will send robots ahead of the astronauts to the planet. These robots will start preparing the way for the human explorers, and when the humans arrive, the robots and the humans will work together," said Nicolaus Radford of the NASA JSC Dextrous Robotics Lab in the CNET article.

Impressive.  But I think things will really start happening when robots such as these are combined with AI.  The end goal is of course to have these robots handling tasks on their own, tasks such as the ones in the DARPA challenge, namely "driving a utility vehicle, walking over uneven terrain, clearing debris, breaking through a wall, closing a valve, and connecting a fire hose."  With an AI installed onboard, the list of potential work tasks lengthens considerably, placing us on the cusp of an entirely new day for robotics.  Let the paranoia begin.

What is perhaps most interesting is that NASA has chosen to give this robot a distinctly feminine aesthetic (click the link and look at the robot for yourself).  This is capped off with its moniker of "Valkyrie."  Didn't see that coming, but why not?  There is nothing saying a robot has to be "male."

Just another preconception blown.





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