To improve a robot's ability to "see", the fix is in the code.

NASA is asking coders to create algorithms for Robonaut 2, or R2, that will expand its 3D vision capabilities. The Robonaut Vision Tool Manipulation contest kicked off this week, and offers a total of $10,000 in prizes for the best algorithms.

R2 is the first humanoid robot in space, currently being tested on the International Space Station. Serving as an extra set of hands for station crew members, the robot is looking to help with the more mundane or repetitive tasks that are required for maintaining the million-pound laboratory, freeing up its human colleagues for critical science and repair work. For example, R2 manages inventory using an RFID reader and fastens bolts with a drill.

In order to use a tool, R2 relies on an algorithm to determine a 3D representation of the tool. The algorithm works with the robot’s control system and allows R2 to create a plan for grasping objects and completing its tasks.

Existing algorithms assume that high-resolution images are always available. New algorithms are needed that can determine differences in objects based on noisy, stereo vision data.

The objective for the Robonaut Vision Tool Manipulation contest is to create algorithms that will receive a pair of noisy stereo images of common space tools, such as an RFID reader, an EVA handrail, or a softbox, and determine the correct 3D representation of the object in the image pair.

The challenge is supported by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed by NASA’s Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI).

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Also: Learn more about the Robonaut 2.