The Boston Dynamics-built ATLAS is the rescue robot prototype that gets all the attention, but now NASA is getting in on the action, unveiling Valkyrie, a 6-foot 2-inch, 275-pound rescue robot. The ‘bot, an entrant in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, a contest designed to find the life-saving robot of tomorrow, will soon undergo a test to see if it can perform tasks like climbing a ladder and using tools.
Why is NASA involved? Because it wants to eventually send robots to Mars ahead of humans, and the DARPA challenge is providing data on how they can do it. Valkyrie itself won’t be rocketed to space–it’s a terrestrial robot, not built for that kind of travel–but it’s a useful starting point for the agency.
Valkyrie uses its three-fingered hands (update: and one thumb) to manipulate objects, and it’s loaded with cameras and sensors so it can eventually operate as autonomously as possible. Plus, (and this is an admittedly small detail) the robot actually looks great. If it was trying to save my life, I wouldn’t recoil in terror, probably.