Google’s challenge was for a tiny, lightweight device that converts DC (the type of electricity that batteries and solar panels put out) to AC (the type of electricity that is most useful for doing work). Such devices are called “inverters” and improvements in inverter technology would obviously be useful for electric cars, home solar power systems, and many another thing.
The winning team exceeded Google’s minimum requirements to win by three times, creating a device that is ten times smaller than existing technologies while meeting all of Google’s other restrictions (such as 95% or better efficiency, air cooling, &etc.) It’s extremely impressive work.
It’s got better support for filesystems and for SD cards, despite Google’s claim that file managers and removable storage are simply too confusing and difficult for their user base. Google’s been flooded with complaints about their rejection of SD cards (and Android tablets like the nVidia Shield that support SD cards are massively outselling Google’s offerings) so perhaps calling their customers clueless wasn’t such a great business move. I haven’t heard anything about the app permissionsdebacle, so I’m assuming that’s still horriblybroken.
Despite this poor performance, I love the Valkyrie, basically because the designers purposely included “must look cool” in their objectives. I’m sure she’ll do better in the future.
The other NASA robot competing (JPL’s Robosimian) did much better, coming in fifth and looking reasonably cool. The winner was the boring looking Japanese SCHAFT S-1, recently purchased by Google as part of their huge push into robotics.