$10,000 Robonaut Challenge
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Friday, 05 April 2013

NASA is looking for help to program Robonaut 2, the humanoid robot that has been on the International Space Station for the past 2 years but without the ability to do the routine and dangerous tasks it was intended for.

Considering it cost $2.5 million, Robonaut 2 (R2) is at best a very expensive maintenance technician. But given that it currently lacks the ability to interact with the types of input devices the astronauts use on the ISS, and so can't even start to relieve them even the most mundane of tasks, it is currently a hugely expensive ornament.


To remedy this situation NASA, in conjunction with the community developer platform TopCoder, has launched a series of   competitions to help R2 learn how to interact with the types of input devices used by human astronauts on the ISS and has built several taskboards with LEDs that turn on when the power switch is flipped or the buttons are pushed.

The first challenge is to teach Robonaut how to recognize the state and location of several buttons and switches on the taskboard. To discover the current state of a taskboard, Robonaut will need to look at it to figure out what LEDs are on/off and to locate them in “robot space”. 

To do this, you will be given a set of imagery from Robonaut both here on earth, on the ISS, and in the simulator.  The camera system is slightly different for each system and has different lighting conditions as well.  Your algorithm must work for every application. Strong performance on the real imagery will translate best to software that works on the ISS.

For each test case there are two images – a “left eye” image and a “right eye” image – and a string array containing the names of the buttons/switches/LEDs you have to locate. In your return you have to define the button/switch’s state and (x,y) location in pixels relative to the upper left corner of the image you choose (“left eye” or “right eye”).

Submissions will be judged on the time taken to determine the state of the LEDs and accuracy - false alarm rate vs. detection and distance between computed and actual position.

This competition has already started and the deadline is April 22 at 09:00 EDT.

A second contest will ask competitors to use the “seeing” algorithm produced in the first challenge in order to write an algorithm that actually controls the robot’s motion.

To enter the contests you must be over 18 and registered as a member of the TopCoder community - which already has almost half a million members from around the globe. There are cash prizes as follows:  


1st $4,000
2nd $3,000
3rd $2,000
4th $1,000


But the real prize will be to know you have contributed to making R2 into a useful member of the ISS crew.



More Information

TopCoder Robonaut Challenge

Related Articles

Robot in space

Free Robonaut 2 Simulator

Coding Contest Outperforms Megablast


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Last Updated ( Friday, 05 April 2013 )