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.