Watch: MIT's Cheetah Robot Learns to Autonomously Jump Over Obstacles

Friday, 29 May 2015 - 3:59PM
Robotics
Friday, 29 May 2015 - 3:59PM
Watch: MIT's Cheetah Robot Learns to Autonomously Jump Over Obstacles
MIT's so-called "Cheetah" robot broke ground when it became the first bot to run as fast as a human being. Now, it has once again become a trailblazer, as it became the first legged robot to jump over hurdles using only its own "mind."



"It's the first legged robot to be able leap hurdles like this autonomously," team leader Sangbae Kim told Wired. "Many other robots can move faster on wheels, or maybe jump higher, but they can't do it on their own."

When the team first unveiled the robot last September, it was running "blind," or without any technology that allowed it to view its surroundings. Now, the bot can "see" thanks to LIDAR, software that uses reflections from lasers to map any nearby obstacles. 

In order to make the jump, the Cheetah first detects the hurdle with LIDAR, estimating its size and distance. Then, an autonomous algorithm allows the robot to adjust its steps as it approaches the obstacle. The algorithm determines the optimal position at which to jump over the hurdle, and spaces out its steps accordingly. This optimization process takes a mere 100 milliseconds to complete, and allows the robot to leap over obstacles up to 18 inches tall at 5 miles per hour. 

Watch: MIT's Cheetah Robot Autonomously Jumps Over Obstacles

"A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," Kim said in an MIT statement. "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."

Kim and the rest of his team aim to use this technology for military or disaster response robots, but it will likely need to be faster and more precise in its movements in order to fulfill those potential applications. As of now, the Cheetah can run autonomously at 13 miles per hour, and leaps hurdles with a 90% success rate on an indoor track, but only 70% on a treadmill. They plan to complete further testing on the bot and continue to upgrade until it is ready for real-world applications.

Science
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Robotics

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