Let's be honest: Most robots look pretty dumb these days. Whether it's the little disk-shaped Roomba that cleans your floor or the jumble of rods and wires that builds your car, these machines seem -- for lack of a better term -- rudimentary. Not the Valkyrie.
NASA's Johnson Space Center just pulled back the curtain on its entry in the DARPA robotics challenge -- and, holy shit, it is awesome. This 180cm tall, 125kg humanoid robot is built for disaster. Valkyrie's two cannon-like arms are interchangeable, and its legs are designed to walk over rough, uneven terrain. It's equipped with cameras on its head, body, forearms, knees, and feet, not to mention with additional LIDAR and sonar units. While it operates via remote right now, the ultimate goal is to make Valkyrie as autonomous as possible. It's hard not to see that glowing circle in the center of its chest and not think about Iron Man.
Standing on two legs, Valkyrie surely reminds you of another DARPA robotics challenge challenger: ATLAS. However, unlike the humanoid robot being being built by Boston Dynamics, Valkyrie is completely battery powered and can walk around without being tethered to anything. That means it could also one day march around the ruins of a fallen building searching for survivors, or it could pick up a laser cannon and fend off invading aliens. (OK, maybe it's too soon to image the great robot-alien war, but you get where I'm going.)
With all its insane capabilities, it's difficult to believe that Valkyrie's only been in the works for one year. The folks at the Johnson Space Center have been working virtually round the clock to get the robot built and operational in time to make it to the next round of the challenge. And you better believe they weren't just trying to build something that worked; they were trying to build something badass. "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing cool," NASA JSC team leader Nicolaus Radford told IEEE Spectrum. "[Valkyrie] has a little bit of a superhero feel to it, because honestly, that's what DARPA's requesting: they want a superhero robot." And here it is. [IEEE]