When teams participating in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) were announced last year, almost all of them provided reasonably detailed renderings that gave us a good idea of the robots that they were working on.
The notable exception was NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC), which only released a piece of concept art that appeared to show a Robonaut-like humanoid, but didn't give much detail. And since then, NASA JSC has been extraordinarily secretive about what they've been working on. Naturally, we got a little bit curious, and back in October, IEEE Spectrum went to Houston for a preview of NASA JSC's DRC robot, Valkyrie.
Now, NASA is ready to share Valkyrie (officially designated "R5" by NASA) with the world.
While NASA's official position is that Valkyrie is a genderless humanoid (as is Robonaut), the robot does have some features that we would call unmistakably female. "Valkyrie" (the roboticists call it "Val" for short) refers to the female figures in Norse mythology who decided which warriors fought valiantly enough in battle to be taken to Valhalla when they died.
If it turns out that Val was deliberately designed from the start with female characteristics, that's a very bold (and very laudable, in our opinion) choice that the JSC team has made. Considering how many girls are interested in STEM in general and robotics specifically, it's about time that someone decided to say, "hey, look, robots can be big and powerful and awesome and female, all at the same time."
Read more: NASA JSC Unveils Valkyrie DRC Robot