MIT researchers have trained their robot, Cheetah, to recognise and jump over hurdles as it runs along – a first for robot technology.
To do that, Cheetah has to make the same calculations that a human hurdler does, estimating the object’s height and distance, and applying the right amount of force to land safely, before resuming its initial pace.
“A running jump is a truly dynamic behaviour,” says Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviours.”
For Cheetah to accomplish the feat, the team developed a three-part algorithm to plan out the robot’s path, based on LIDAR data. Both the vision and path-planning system are onboard the robot, giving it complete autonomous control.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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