Two universities have been awarded the R5, NASA’s humanoid robot previoulsy known as the Valkyrie, for advanced research and development. NASA hopes that the research groups will provide upgrades facilitating human-robot relations in real-life space missions. Computerized assistants could be fundamental in the journey to Mars, although NASA is aiming to go more C-3PO than HAL 9000.
Robots have the potential to help or replace astronauts working in extreme space environments. The successors of robots like the R5 could assist humans on their mission, as well as performing a role as precursors, working onsite on the surface of another world before the crew arrives.
The two universities that will receive the robots are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. The teams were selected from groups that entered the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge.
In 2016, the two R5s will participate in the Space Robotics Challenge, in which the software and hardware of the robot will be tested to deal with likely scenarios they might encounter.
“Advances in robotics, including human-robotic collaboration, are critical to developing the capabilities required for our journey to Mars,” said Steve Jurczyk, of NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, in a statement. “We are excited to engage these university research groups to help NASA with this next big step in robotics technology development.”
NASA hopes that the advanced research and development conducted on the R5 will lead to a more reliable and autonomous humanoid robot.