Nasa is to send two androids to compete in a military competition to see which is best at saving lives.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is running the contest to help push robotics forward to the point where humanoid robots could be deployed in disaster zones - or potentially in military arenas.

We recently reported on Darpa's own robot, the six-foot-tall Atlas, which will be used as a platform on which seven teams will run their own code in an effort to get the most out of the machine.

And now Nasa has revealed its own physical droids (their word) which will take part in the "gruelling" challenge at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida alongside Atlas and others.

nasa

Above: concept image of robots helping in a disaster zone


Team will be required to navigate their robots through an obstacle course in which they will have to "drive around roadblocks, bound over rugged terrain, climb up ladders, break down walls and connect a fire hose to a valve."

The first of Nasa's robots is RoboSimian, a bot built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory which looks like a monkey and moves on all fours. The other is 'Valkyrie', made at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston - about which not much is known.

It is unlikely in the extreme that either robot will ever be used in the field, but it is hoped the contest will provide research data and experience, which will eventually be used to inform new models.

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  • Meet Jules, the newest and most realistic humanoid robot yet from David Hanson and the team at Hanson Robotics.

  • A robot that looks just like its creator (www.newscientist.com).

  • Engineers at Kagawa University in Japan are developing a talking robotic version of the human mouth: To enable the robot's speaking abilities, engineers at Japan's Kagawa University used an air pump, artificial vocal chords, a resonance tube, a nasal cavity, and a microphone attached to a sound analyzer as substitutes for human vocal organs.

  • ACTROID-F in AIST Open Lab 2010.

  • Robot modeled after Albert Einstein. Einstein mimics the facial expressions he detects in others. Smile at him, and he'll smile back.

  • Cybernetic human dance demo in DCEXPO, 2010.

  • Humanoid face created by Hanson Robotics (www.hansonrobotics.com). Robotics scientists at Hanson previously created animatronic puppets for Disney studios.

  • Animatronic baby mechanism for anonymous TV series. Built by Chris Clarke for CNFX Workshop.

  • Taiwanese Kissing Robots (NTUST Robot) were exhibited in AutoRob2009 in Gwangju, Korea. They were developed by Prof. Chyi-Yeu Lin's research team in National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

  • Robot girl with silicone skin.