Researchers at MIT have managed to train their cheetah robot to detect and flawlessly jump over an obstacle as it runs, just like a real animal would. The event marks the creation of the first four legged robot that can jump over obstacles autonomously, making it a significant step forward in the field of robotics.
The remarkable achievement is one in steady line of progress for the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) researchers. Just last year they managed to demonstrate how well their cheetah robot was able to run.
Now, MIT has posted a video on their YouTube channel, showing the smart machine running on an indoor treadmill and easily jumping over solid blocks half their size. The video presentation informs that the researchers developed and used three (3) real-time algorithms in order for the robot to achieve this performance.
Sangbae Kim, MIT assistant professor of Mechanical engineering, gave a statement informing that “A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior. You have to manage balance and energy and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors”.
Dubbed “Cheetah 2”, the robot is equipped with a 2D laser distance sensor that provides it with information on any upcoming obstacles it needs to overcome by helping it calculate the height and distance of the objects. It has no cameras whatsoever.
After it calculates where an object is and how big it is, the cheetah robot recalculates its own steps so that it can make the adjustments needed to jump over it without error.
Then, another algorithm carefully decides which leg thrusts to choose to successfully jump over the obstacles. The machine can run at a speed of up to 10 miles per hour, however the researchers are confident that with a little more work, it could achieve a speed of 30 miles per hour.
The MIT cheetah robot is shown leaping over obstacles as small as 27 cm or 34 cm, and as large as 40 cm or 46 cm. Not only that, but the machine has no problem jumping over multiple obstacles found at short distances from one and other, while maintaining its speed. It can also jump without safety wires as well as it can with them, and it can run on a track as easily as it can on a treadmill.
The algorithms make it so that the cheetah robot is highly efficient even with jumps so close to one and other that the machine barely has time to run a couple of steps between them while calculating its moves.
In the video, the researchers tested this ability by making it run on a 4 meter long track with 4 obstacles on it. Each obstacle was placed at a distance of 1 meter from the previous one. The cheetah robot never failed to “see” an obstacle.
The robot’s rate of success was about 70 percent (70%) on tracks, and it proved to be even more efficient on an indoor treadmill, with a rate of success of about 90 percent (90%). The theory is that the cheetah robot had had more space and time to see its obstacles while it was approaching them on the treadmill, and therefore more time to calculate and choose its moves.
The MIT researchers are currently taking their work forward by trying to get the cheetah robot to run and jump over obstacles that are sitting on softer terrain, such as grass.
Image Source: wcvb.com