Robot Cheetah Sees, Jumps Obstacles: Watch

A new LIDAR system allows MIT's cheetah robot to autonomously jump over obstacles in its path while running 5 MPH.

If watching a 70-pound robot cheetah run at speeds up to 13 MPH isn’t creepy enough, MIT researchers just upped the ante.

MIT’s infamous Cheetah robot, which is competing in the DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals in June, has been upgraded and can now autonomously jump over hurdles while running 5 MPH.

Thanks to new a new LIDAR system, the robot Cheetah can determine the height, size, and distance of objects in its path. It then adjusts its approach, jumps over the obstacle and lands safely, all without slowing down.

Wired explains how the new Cheetah robot works: “The previous cheetah had most of the same hardware - except it was blind. It used an IMU (internal measurement unit) with an accelerometer and a gyroscope to keep its balance. These sensors - the same used to control drones, satellites, and missiles - were combined with a specially-designed algorithm that could help determine how much force to exert and adapt to any changes in terrain and programmed speed. But the robot still had no way of seeing objects in the way.

The new system implements a new LIDAR sensor system that grants the robot the gift of sight, using reflections from lasers to map terrain. Combined with the unique algorithm and all the other sensors in place, the cheetah-bot can run and avoid oncoming obstacles all on its own, adjusting to new information in about half the time of a single stride and determining how much force its 12 electric motors will need to deliver to its 3D-printed legs to clear any hurdles.”

“A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior,” 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 behaviors.”

According to MIT, the robot Cheetah completed 90% of its test jumps on an indoor track, but only 70 percent on the treadmill. We’ll have to wait and see how it performs at the DARPA competition, but it’s still impressive regardless. As MIT points out, the robot Cheetah is the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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