This is the way the world ends.
But seriously: The latest achievement of MIT's robotic cheetah -- a quick, resilient mechanical creature that we've covered on the blog before -- is kind of terrifying. Cool, but terrifying. As you can see in the above clip, the robot can now leap over hurdles mid-run without the help of a human, which makes it the first four-legged robot to do so.
The robot uses an algorithm to gauge the height and distance of upcoming obstacles, so it can clear them without breaking its (record-breaking) stride. The process of planning its leap based on the obstacle at hand takes just 100 milliseconds, which is half the time it takes for the robot to make a single stride. Right now it's cleared obstacles over 18 inches tall (more than half its own height) while maintaining a speed of up to 5 miles per hour. When tested on a treadmill, where it only had a single meter of running space to adapt to new objects placed in front of it, the robot cleared 70 percent of them. On an outdoor track where the objects could be placed further in the distance, it cleared 90 percent.
It's not exactly doing parkour, but that's an impressive leap for an autonomous robot.
“A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior,” Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and one of the robot's designers, said in a statement. “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.”
The robot will be presented at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in June and a paper on its autonomous systems is expected in July.
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