THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO “HMMM…”: NASA UNVEILS ...December 29, 2013
NASA unveiled a robot named Valkyrie just in time to use it as an entry in the DAPRA challenge, and this one has so many implications and even messages we simply have to talk about it here(thanks again to MS P.H. for sharing this one):
Now, there's any number of things here that made me go "hmmm..." and I'll bet did you too. The first is the name of the robot itself: Valkyrie, conjuring mental images and mind music of Richard Wagner, in his state of sybaritic synaesthesia, composing his librettos and Ring cycle operas, including the famous Ride of the Walkyries, a Teutonic vision of "resurrection" and blond, helmeted "goddesses" with spears who gather up the sacred dead and fly them off to Valhalla, singing all the way over a full orchestra (some off stage and through megaphones incidentally). The only thing lacking was a flying Viking longship(Wagner had already sort of done that flying ship thing with Der Fliegende Hollander. He was strange. Brilliant. But strange.) Valkyrie, in other words, conjures images not only of Nazis-at-the-opera or in NASA, but of heavenly missions...
Which brings us to the second "hmm": the fact that this is entered in the Diabolically Apocalyptic Research Agency's robot competition. Think of it as a sort of Kammler Contest For Most Bizarre and Out of the Box Engineering Project. You'll note the following paragraphs, which picqued my interest and high octane speculation:
"Valkyrie, which has the official NASA designation of “R5,” stands about 6-feet-2-inches tall and weighs almost 280 pounds. It was designed to compete in the trial stage of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). In the competition, robots are asked to complete a series of tasks, such as driving a car, walking over rough terrain, attaching a virtual hose, and turning a valve. Essentially, Valkyrie has to be able to operate in the same way a normal person would while under the control of humans who have only minimal training with robots.
"According to DARPA, the main goal of the DRC is to push innovation towards building robots that can take over tasks normally handled by humans. Using robots to perform these tasks could be advantageous in situations deemed too dangerous for humans, such as disaster areas."
Now, having a robot that can drive a car (or pilot a space vehicle or Martian rover, or what have you), walk over rough terrain (like on Mars or the Moon), attach hoses, and turn valves, is a pretty handy thing to have around "in situations deemed too dangerous for humans" such as mining asteroids (or mining anything, anywhere, really), or repairing spacecraft(even those containing humans). Their utility to perform such tasks in space would be cost effective as well, since human asteroid miners would have to be supplied, robots, more or less, would not.