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NASA Robots Showcased at Silicon Valley Robotics' 'Robot Block Party'
April 7, 2014


Two cutting-edge NASA prototype robots will be featured during a "Robot Block Party" at WilmerHale at 950 Page Mill Road, Palo Alto, Calif., from 1 - 4 p.m. PDT, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Silicon Valley Robotics is hosting the free public event as part of the fifth annual National Robotics Week.

Robotic technology from the Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., will be on display, including a prototype planetary rover known as K-Rex. Also featured will be a prototype robot based on a dynamically-controlled "tensegrity structure" -- ­a collection of rods connected and suspended by tensioned cables -- called "Tensegrity Bot."


The K-Rex is equipped with stereo cameras, a compass, a device to measure the incline of the terrain, differential GPS, an odometer, two inertial measurement units to provide attitude and velocity data for navigation and control, and a Lidar mapping instrument that uses 32 laser beams to accurately measure distance. K-Rex is capable of gathering large amounts of data useful for research in mapping, localization and navigation while driving on rugged terrain.

Researchers and engineers will conduct outdoor driving tests with K-Rex this summer and then will use the rover for a field experiment in the Mojave Desert. The field experiment involves using rover-mounted instruments ­ cameras and spectrometers ­ to study the soil moisture profile of the Mojave Desert. The experiment will help NASA plan for future robotic prospecting missions to the moon.

The Tensegrity Bot will be used to explore how tensegrity structures, which are typically built as architectural art exhibits, can be controlled by computers. Researchers in the IRG are interested in tension-based structures because they have great potential to save space, weight and energy, and can be used for a variety of tasks on NASA's future space missions, including deploying antennas, aligning large payloads and pointing solar arrays.

Other robotic technology on display at the Robot Block Party includes robots that drive cars, climb walls, assemble delicate parts and help perform medical procedures.

The robots are funded in-part by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in future missions. NASA's technology investments provide cutting-edge solutions for our nation's future.

For more information about the directorate, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

For more information about the Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames, visit: http://irg.arc.nasa.gov

For more information about the Robot Block Party, visit: http://www.svrobo.org

For more information about National Robotics Week, visit: http://nationalroboticsweek.org

Text issued as Ames media advisory M14-024

Rachel Hoover
Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Silicon Valley Robotics

Tensegrity Bot in the Roverscape at Ames
A prototype of NASA's Tensegrity Super Ball Bot built by Ghent University's Ken Caluwaerts in the Roverscape at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett FIeld, Calif.
Image Credit: 
NASA Ames/Eric James.
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K-Rex planetary rover
The K-Rex rover during an engieering field test at the Basalt Hills quarry, California in October 2012.
Image Credit: 
NASA / Lorenzo Fluckiger (CMU Silicon Valley)
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Page Last Updated: April 9th, 2014
Page Editor: Rachel Hoover