MIT’s EV-powered Cheetah learns to jump obstacles

MIT researchers have developed an algorithm for jumping over obstacles with their robotic cheetah. With the security of tethers from above, the Cheetah runs on a treadmill as objects...

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MIT researchers have developed an algorithm for jumping over obstacles with their robotic cheetah. With the security of tethers from above, the Cheetah runs on a treadmill as objects of different sizes are placed in front of it.  Running at 2.4 meters per second, first it faces a 27cm object, then up to a 40cm object, something 3/4 of it’s own height. This is a 7cm improvement since September last year.

The 2D laser distance sensor detects in real time how quickly the object is approaching, then determines how much time is left before reaching the optimal jumping distance. Finally the stride of the Cheetah robot is modified to allow it time to recoil and release it’s leg muscles (or motors) to create the spring necessary to successfully jump the object.

Now, the robot can “see,” with the use of onboard LIDAR — a visual system that uses reflections from a laser to map terrain. 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.

Finally the Cheetah is unleashed and additional tests are conducted untethered. This demonstrates an ability to avoid objects and be dynamic about an every changing environment in front of it. It’s crazy to watch and hard to believe it works, but it does. Right now both front and rear legs bound together as one, lowering the chance for sideways movement. To achieve the real speed and agility of a Cheetah, researchers will have to do the far more difficult task of a take-off from just two feet on the ground (front right, rear left and vice versa).

The all-electric powered Cheetah is much quieter than the old petrol-powered dog from Boston Dynamics and researchers believe that the motion of a cheetah is more efficient, after all it is the fastest 4 legged animal on the planet. One day in the not too distant future, they believe their robotics could exceed the muscle capacity of a real cheetah.

In a leap for robotic development, the MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs — making this the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously.

For more information head over to MIT News Office – http://bit.ly/1JYy1bD

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