Those scientists have really done it this time. When the robot apocalypse happens, you won’t be able to take shelter behind small wooden barriers. The robots can jump over those now. These traitors to humanity are a group of engineers at MIT who have managed to teach the running “Cheetah” robot how to properly detect and clear obstacles placed in its path.
Cheetah is a quadrupedal robot based on high-torque density actuators. This hardware gives the robot the ability to run at a top speed of 10 miles per hour, which is far short of its namesake, but impressive for an untethered robot. The new jumping behavior is thanks to three real-time algorithms at work in the Cheetah’s electronic brain.
First, its 2D laser rangefinder (LIDAR) detects an object in its path and calculates the distance and height. This data tells the robot how to change its stride length to get into an optimal jumping position. Finally, it figures out how much thrust to apply with the front and hind legs to safely clear the barrier.
Using this system, the Cheetah can easily clear objects more than 30 centimetersÂ tall, and they don’t even have to be perfectly aligned with its path. Several of the tests in the video show the barriers being placed slightly at an angle. It only takes about 100 milliseconds for the adjustment process to happen, so the robot can respond to unexpected changes in the terrain.
The untethered test at the end of the video is the most impressive part. The robot maintains an average speed of five miles per hour throughout the test, which is about the same as a light jog for humans. On the track with more time to calculate the position of barriers, Cheetah has aÂ 90% success rate on its jumps. With the treadmill, it’s a little less successful (70%) due to the shorter lead time. The team expects these numbers to improve over time.