今天,美国国家航空航天局(NASA)把两座R5机器人送到了美国东北大学和麻省理工大学。在此前的DARPA机器人挑战赛中,美国国防部选择了美国麻省理工学院和东北大学研究团队竞争参与NASA的太空机器人Robonaut 5(R5)人形机器人原型的升级研究工作,希望这个机器人能更具高度灵活性。R5人形机器人名为Valkyrie,是北欧神话里的女神的名字。身高超1.8米,体重131.5KG,最终将被用于执行NASA的火星任务。

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麻省理工学院和东北大学的研究人员将就R5机器人的物理挑战和计算机模拟方面展开竞争。比如研究人员需要设定好机器人摔倒的动作指令,以确保这些机器人能适应火星上的恶劣环境。

NASA灵巧机器人实验室的负责人尼古拉斯·莱德福德(Nicolaus Radford)介绍说,”NASA极有可能在宇航员之前先将机器人送上火星,这些机器人将提前为宇航员做一些准备,当宇航员到达火星时,机器人将协同宇航员完成工作。”

NASA研究人员在R5机器人的头部、胸部、手臂、膝盖和脚部都安装了摄像头,腹部还有一个声呐。它还使用激光雷达,采用激光反射光来测量物体。R5人形机器人胸口还装有一个发光的NASA标志。

美国国防部高级研究计划局(DARPA)在今年举行的机器人挑战赛总决赛中选择了美国麻省理工学院和东北大学研究团队参与竞争R5人形机器人的升级工作。他们将获得NASA每年25万美元的研究资助经费。

If R5 looks like something out of a science fiction film, that’s by design. The robot — designed by NASA to one day supplement or even replace humans on space missions — is surely one of the coolest humanoid bots ever created.

Now two of these six-foot tall robotic superheroes are coming to the Boston area: Northeastern University and MIT will each have a prototype to play around with. The hope is that the two robotics teams, selected by NASA based on their performance in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, will develop the algorithms these bots need to put their cool bods to use.

R5 (also known as Valkyrie, which isn’t a super reassuring name for a giant space robot if you know anything about Norse mythology) didn’t make the cut for the last DARPA challenge. But that’s arguably because the robot was built in a hurry and the team focused too much on getting the mechanical properties right instead of spending months and months programming algorithms to help it get through tasks.

So it makes sense to loop in two of the teams that did make the cut. MIT’s Valkyrie project is to be led by Russ Tedrake, whose team came in sixth place at the final round of the competition. Taskin Padir is leading the charge at Northeastern, but he was previously a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and co-head of their DARPA team, which came in seventh place.

The two teams will each get at least two years of funding at $250,000 a pop. Eventually the robots will compete in a competition not unlike DARPA’s — but focused on tasks specific to space travel.