MIT and the University of Edinburgh were recently awarded some of NASA's Mars-bound Valkyrie robots to test out and improve. The University of Edinburgh has given the world an idea of how challenging the robots are to work with in a new video they have released. The robot is 1.8-metres tall and weighs 275 lbs, equipped with 200 sensors. NASA wants to essentially deliver the bots to Mars in one of their upcoming missions in conjunction with SpaceX. The hope is that the robots will be more efficient and dexterous than the rovers that are currently circumnavigating Mars.
Robert Platt, as an assistant professor at Northeastern University who is working on the project, said: "The rovers get their instructions uploaded at the beginning of the day. Those instructions amount to, 'Go over there,' or, 'Check out that rock.' It's a completely different ballgame when the job for the day is to assemble a couple of habitats." Which is something the Valkyrie robots might have the task of doing.
The University of Edinburgh has shown the initial progress with Valkyrie and it seems the mechanical engineering behind the robot is increasingly complex and slow.
Another university that got one of the four robots to play around with was the University of Massachusetts-Lowell who are working in tandem with Northeastern University. Taskin Padir, a professor at Northeastern University expressed his dismay with the robot's awkward walking and mechanical issues, saying for a price tag of $2.6 million, there's still some progress to be made.
Holly Yanco, a computer science professor at UMass-Lowell's said: "It needs to be able to communicate back to Earth, very clearly and concisely what's going on." However, if it cannot climb over rocks or show dexterity by then, the robots would be mostly useless on Mars. What does look positive is its dense visual mapping, that sees the robot virtually mapping out the terrain that might be necessary for it to navigate around.