NASA Calls Coders to Create New Algorithms to Improve Its Robonaut's Vision

By Staff Writer

Feb 25, 2016 04:32 AM EST

NASA is holding a competition to help its humanoid robot, Robonaut 2, improve its vision. The contest is open for public, and participants are asked to develop new algorithms to solve some issues that had affected the robot's sensors and failing its vision.

According to The Verge, the Robonaut 2's vision sensors have been worn down ever since the robot was sent to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2011. The prolonged constant exposure to high levels to high-level radiation has damaged the robot's vision. NASA aims to keep the sensors machinery the robot already has, as it seeks to solve the problem with new algorithms. 

Currently, the Robonaut 2's algorithm allows it to determine 3D representations of the environment around it. However, the worn out sensors are no longer capable of supplying high-res images to make the old algorithm works.

New algorithms are expected to allow the Robonaut 2 to detect space tools and see the environment even when they're looking at stereo images with noise and grains. The ultimate goal is making the Robonaut 2 capable of analyzing grainy, subpar pictures and distinguishing tools with new algorithms that work with the existing robot's control system. "The objective of the contest is to create algorithms that will receive a pair of noisy stereo images of common space tools such as a Radio-frequency identification (RFID) reader, an EVA handrail or a softbox, among others, and determine the correct 3D representation of the object in the image pair," Nasa explained in a statement quoted by Business Standard.

Robonaut 2, also often referred to as the R2, is the first humanoid robot in space. The Robonaut 2 has been helping astronauts in the ISS with repetitive tasks to maintain the laboratory, freeing up its human colleagues for critical science and repair work. The R2 is an improved, faster, more dexterous version of its predecessor R1.

NASA announced that the contest is supported by its Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed by the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI), which have often helped NASA solve mission-critical problems The winners will receive a total prize of $10,000 for the best algorithms. The competition was launched to open innovation platforms that engage the crowdsourcing community in challenges to create the most innovative, efficient, and optimal solutions.

The competition to create new algorithms that could improve Robonaut 2's vision is still open until March 8th. Participants are required to develop algorithms that could work with the humanoid's existing machinery, where grainy stereo images would suffice for the R2 to create 3D representations of the space tools. 

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