In a press release MIT has announced that its Cheetah robot has taken the next step to robot domination by programing their robot to autonomously jump over obstacles. In controlled lab tests the Cheetah robot has cleared obstacles up to half its height, 18 inches, while maintaining an average speed of 5 miles per hour.
Labs around the world have just autonomous running extremely difficult for their robots and adding accurate jumping requires another level of planning and sensing. To accomplish this MIT outfitted the Cheetah robot with onboard LIDAR, a visual system that uses reflections from a laser to map terrain. The robotics researchers also developed a three-part algorithm to plan out the robot’s path, based on LIDAR data. In just fraction of seconds, the algorithm 1) detects the obstacle, 2) determines the best place to jump from safely, and 3) calculates the best speed and force needed to clear the obstacle. Both the vision and path-planning system are onboard the robot, giving it complete autonomous control.
"A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," said Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, in a press release. "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."
MIT has certainly raised the bar for autonomous robots.