Press Release

TopCoder and NASA Tournament Lab Champion High Value Output-Based Challenges, Now Look to Bring Sight Capability to ISS Robot

By SpaceRef Editor
April 1, 2013
Filed under , ,

Competition Platform Building on Measureable Successes, High Value Returns from Previous Challenges, Puts Sights on Visual Recognition for Robonaut 2

Glastonbury, Conn., April 1, 2013 – TopCoder(R), Inc., the world’s largest open innovation platform and competitive community of 470,000 digital creators, today announced two new marathon competitions hosted through the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) that will look to continue delivery of output-based high value returns in the most cost-effective and measurable software development process currently available to government agencies. The competitions will center on NASA’s famous space robot Robonaut 2 aboard the International Space Station (ISS). The initial challenge will focus on enabling Robonaut 2 to interact visually with different types of input devices the astronauts use on the Space Station.

Successfully completed projects for NASA on NTL’s open and transparent environment for sophisticated technology development include the recent Longeron Shadowing Optimization Challenge, a $30,000 open innovation competition to make the energy-gathering solar arrays of the Space Station more efficient which attracted a pool of more than 4,000 registrants and delivered 459 competitors who produced 2185 unique solutions in less than two weeks, the Space Med Kit competition which delivered a 360 x improvement over the existing NASA algorithm and garnered 2,833 distinct code submissions from 1,095 participants at a cost of $24,000, and the Planetary Data System Idea Challenge, a $13,000 challenge in deployment and future use mode which found novel ideas for new applications to help general users to search, display and understand the more than 100 terabytes of recorded space images, telemetry and models from 30 years of planetary missions. Additionally, the Food Intake Tracker (FIT) iPad App Conceptualization and Voice Command Idea Generation competitions recently finished with architecture competitions beginning soon. The ISS-FIT competition program is creating new dietary tracking applications for use by astronauts.

“We at TopCoder are thrilled to be again working with Harvard and NASA to provide creative and inventive support of NTL’s mission to deliver critical solutions while recognizing the need to return high taxpayer value,” said Rob Hughes, President and COO of TopCoder, Inc. “We feel that our collective efforts on Robonaut 2, along with our successful Longeron, PDS and FIT programs have exposed the exciting prospect that game changing solutions can be created at reasonable cost by a new generation of engineers, programmers and technologists which is critical to innovation in the public sector and beyond.”

About the Robonaut 2 Competitions

Competitors from around the world are welcome to register at . Each phase will run three weeks from start to finish.

This first phase of the two competitions is to enable Robonaut 2 to recognize the state and location of several buttons and switches on a dashboard fitted with LED lights. Contestants will be tasked to work with different sets of imagery from NASA’s lab on earth and on the Space Station, as well as in a simulator. The successful algorithm application must work with each of several different camera systems and varying lighting conditions within each environment.

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. The algorithm will need to “see” an object, recognize it, and correctly operate and interact with it in the most efficient and safe manner possible.

A long term goal is to further develop the capabilities of robots to interact with input devices and move closer to enabling them to one day perform repetitive, monotonous tasks in place of astronauts. Full details are available at

About NASA Tournament Lab

NASA and Harvard Business School in association with Harvard’s Institute of Quantitative Social Sciences have established the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), which, with the enabling capabilities of the TopCoder community, allows for competitions to create the most innovative, most efficient, and most optimized solutions for specific, real-world challenges being faced by NASA researchers. The NTL provides an online virtual facility for NASA researchers with a computational or complex data processing challenge to “order” a solution, just like they would order laboratory tests or supplies. Learn more at the official NTL Website

About TopCoder, Inc.

TopCoder is the world’s largest open innovation platform and competitive community of digital creators with more than 470,000 members representing algorithmists, software developers and creative artists from over 200 countries. The TopCoder Platform and Community create digital assets including analytics, software and creative designs and solutions for a wide-ranging client base through a competitive, rigorous, standards based methodology. Combined with our extremely talented community this groundbreaking methodology results in superior outcomes for our clients. For more information about sponsoring TopCoder events and utilizing TopCoder’s software services and platforms, visit

TopCoder is a registered trademark of TopCoder, Inc. in the United States and other countries. All other product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.

SpaceRef staff editor.