We received very exciting news yesterday… NASA awarded our team a Valkyrie humanoid robot. We are looking forward to collaborating with NASA, our colleagues at MIT and Space Robotics Challenge competitors to advance the autonomy on Valkyrie. Here is a brief summary of our project acknowledging our entire team:

Accessible Testing on Humanoid-Robot-R5 and Evaluation of NASA Administered (ATHENA) Space Robotics Challenge

Taskin Padir, Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Northeastern University
Robert Platt, Assistant Professor, College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University
Holly Yanco, Professor, Computer Science Department, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Our overarching goal in this basic and applied research and technology development effort is to advance humanoid robot autonomy for the success of future space missions. We will achieve this goal by (1) establishing a tight collaborative environment among our institutions (Northeastern University (NEU) and the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML)) and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, (2) leveraging our collective DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) experience in humanoid robot control, mobility, manipulation, perception, and operator interfaces, (3) developing a systematic model-based task validation methodology for the Space Robotics Challenge (SRC) tasks, (4) implementing novel perception based grasping and human-robot interaction techniques, (5) providing access to collaborative testing facilities for the SRC competition teams, and (6) making the developed software available to the humanoid robotics community. Successful completion of this project will not only progress the technological readiness of humanoid robots for practical applications but also nurture a community of competitors and collaborators to enhance the outcomes of the SRC to be administered by NASA in 2016. We propose to unify our team’s complementary expertise in robot control (Padir), grasping (Platt), and human-robot interaction (Yanco) to advance the autonomy of NASA’s R5. Since August 2012, Padir has been co-leading the WPI DRC Team, the only Track C team that participated in the DRC Finals with an Atlas humanoid robot. Platt participated in Team TRACLabs’ DRC entry to enhance Atlas robot’s autonomous manipulation capabilities. Yanco led the DARPA-funded study of human-robot interaction (HRI) for the DRC, at both the Trials and the Finals. Our team is unique in terms of facilities and capabilities for hosting NASA’s R5 at the New England Robotics Validation and Experimentation (NERVE) Center at UMass Lowell in Lowell Massachusetts, less than 30 miles from Boston. At 10,000 square feet, the NERVE Center is the largest indoor robot test facility in New England.