NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition

Handicapping the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge, Gizmodo

"NASA JSC Team Valkyrie (7/1): Johnson Space Center has a 20-year legacy in humanoid robot development, and the six-foot-two, 286 lb Valkyrie, "inspired by a female first responder wearing body armor" brings 44 degrees of American freedom to the fight. Team Valkyrie is playing the long game, claiming they're focused on next year's final challenge rather than victory today. Is it sandbagging? We'll see."

Keith's note: Well the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials 2013 event is over. According to DARPA "The Trials will provide a baseline on the current state of robotics and determine which teams will continue on to the DRC Finals in 2014 with continued DARPA funding. Competing in the 2014 Finals will lead to one team winning a $2 million prize."

NASA JSC's Valkyrie is in a three-way tie for last place in the competition. So you have to wonder if DARPA will give her another chance. Yes "her" since that is how JSC folks refer to her in addition to calling her "Val". The robot was given an overt female personality despite direction from NASA HQ to JSC that directed them to make it gender neutral.

NASA JSC had planned to put a Valkyrie website online at http://val.jsc.nasa.gov/. For a day or so a placeholder page said "coming soon" but was then quickly pulled offline. JSC has spent $3 million in NASA funds (so far) and constructed the robot in secret. NASA JSC PAO as not put anything online about this robot. Indeed, they have been very calculating in their secrecy and media avoidance on this project. And they continue to behave this way. No media advisories, press releases - just exclusive access to one publication - and then no access for anyone else. I wonder if they will even admit that they are in last place?

As such, it is unlikely that we will learn much of anything about this robot - starting with why it did so badly in the competition and whether NASA is going to spend more money on this robot.

NASA JPL had a robot entry too (image on left)- Robosimian and it placed 5th. JPL was much more open (albeit low key) about their entry - even showing earlier versions while JSC involked full secrecy.

Keith's update: There is a Twitter account (apparently official) at @NASAValkyrie with pictures that NASA JSC PAO has otherwise refused to publish or distribute.

- Japanese Humanoid Robot Dominates DARPA Challenge, Live Science
- Lockheed Martin Team Moves Forward In "Elite Eight" Following DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials
- No One is in the Driver's Seat at NASA, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on December 31, 2013 8:49 AM.

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