Procurement: December 2013 Archives

NASA JSC Unveils 'Valkyrie' DRC Robot, IEEE Spectrum

"While NASA's official position is that Valkyrie is a genderless humanoid (as is Robonaut), the robot does have some features that we would call unmistakably female. For example, there's the name of the robot. "Valkyrie" (the roboticists call it "Val" for short) refers to the female figures in Norse mythology who decided which warriors fought valiantly enough in battle to be taken to Valhalla when they died."

Keith's update: This placeholder website just appeared. But it only shows Valkyrie's back - not her front. There was a Facebook page up until yesterday that referred to Valkyrie as a female and said that Robonaut was her "brother". NASA JSC was originally directed by NASA HQ to make this robot gender neutral. JSC then ignored that direction and deliberately made the robot overtly female - at least its upper torso. Now they deny that it is female or that it was ever intendeded to evoke or portray a female characteristics in any way. This project was also kept secret from a large number of JSC engineers who would otherwise be aware of such activities. Someone is not being truthful.

Just for the record folks, I have no problem whatsoever in making robots and other NASA hardware more approachable to people in ways that make them feel included. None whatsoever. And if you are going to make a space robot why not make it look cool? Lets see more of it! What is troubling is how NASA JSC played favorites with one specific media outlet to the exclusion of all others - and still does; how NASA JSC is being less than honest when they say that there was no intent to imply gender identity on this robot when in fact multiple well-placed sources state that this was intentional from the onset at JSC; and that HQ PAO is now trying to tell me that a robot with an overtly female chest configuration and a female name is not trying to invoke a female identity. I'm not that stupid - neither is everyone else.

Why can't they just admit the obvious to the public in the same way that they discuss it internally? Its time for NASA JSC to be honest and stop trying to weasel out of the obvious by hiding behind HQ PAO responses. Ellen Ochoa knows the whole story.

Keith's note: I submitted the following questions to NASA PAO, JSC PAO, and Mike Gazarik - the reply from NASA HQ is listed below:



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