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NASA Announces Space Robotics Challenge Finalists

Top teams will compete in a simulated Mars mission

2 min read
NASA Valkyrie Humanoid Robot
NASA's Valkyrie humanoid robot.
Image: NASA

Last August, NASA opened the first round of the Space Robotics Challenge. A follow-on to the DARPA Robotics Challenge, the SRC is focused on what it’s going to take to get humans back to the moon or on to Mars, embracing the idea that sending humanoid robots there first would make everything a heck of a lot easier. Just like the DRC, the SRC starts in simulation, with an initial round to select 20 finalists from 93 competing teams. NASA has just announced the results.

In order to make it into one of the 20 finalist slots, teams had to perform some simple tasks in simulation (using Gazebo) as quickly as possible. They had to correctly identify a series of simulated blinking lights, and then push a button with a simulated R5 Valkyrie and walk 1 meter through a door without falling over.

All 20 teams have equal standing as they move on to the final round of the competition, but here are the top five in order of how amusing I find their team names:

  • Walk Softly
  • Ring of the Nibelungs
  • Nevermore

The other 15 somewhat-less-creatively-named finalist teams are, in alphabetical order:

  • Coordinated Robotics
  • Mingo Mountain Robotics
  • MITs
  • Mystic
  • Sirius
  • SpaceBucs
  • Space Weavers
  • Team AL v.2.0
  • Team Olrun
  • Team Olympus Mons
  • Whalers
  • WPI Humanoid Robotics Lab
  • WV Robotics Team
  • Xion Systems
  • ZARJ

NASA tells us that 16 of these teams are based in the United States. There’s one Canadian team, one team from Japan, one mixed team from the U.S./U.K./Germany, and one horribly timezone-challenged mixed team from Spain/Scotland/Canada/Australia. The largest team has 39 members and the smallest has just a single person, and a full half of the teams have no specific affiliation, which is pretty cool.

The SRC Finals themselves will take place between June 13 and June 17—check out our earlier post for more details on that. In the meantime, NASA is hosting a space robotics webinar which actually looks interesting, a thing that I don’t think I’ve ever said about a webinar before. It’s next week, and you can sign up here.


The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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