Abandon All Hope - Robots Can Now Jump Over Walls

| 31 May 2015 20:49

MIT and DARPA's Cheetah Robot has been upgraded to autonomously jump over obstacles and walls.

You probably still thought you had a safe place to hide from the robot apocalypse, didn't you? Well thanks to recent upgrades to MIT's Cheetah robot, you'll have to rewrite your survival plans from scratch. After breaking all kinds of speed records last year, MIT has provided the Cheetah with new algorithms to jump over obstacles 40 centimeters tall - making it the first robot capable of jumping over walls.

What's that? 40 centimeters doesn't sound like much? You may laugh, but if the next algorithm lets it get over chest-high walls, all our video game reponse training is for nothing. It's pretty much game over for humanity.

The actual jumping process itself is surprisingly complex. Much like human runners, the Cheetah watches for approaching obstacles, estimates its height and distance, and calculates the best position from which to jump. Then it adjusts its stride, exerts enough force to push itself into the air, and applies force as it hits the ground to resume its run safely. During experiments on treadmills and indoor tracks, the Cheetah successfully cleared 45 centimeter tall obstacles while running 5 miles an hour. I'm sure MIT representatives would be terrified if they weren't incredibly excited about this historic achievement.

MIT Cheetah Jump

"A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," assistant professor of mechanical engineering Sangbae Kim explained. "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."

What's really interesting is that MIT's algorithm doesn't provide optimal jumping controls, only feasible ones. That's because MIT doesn't want to be so energy efficient that the Cheetah barely clears obstacles - those calculations take longer and could be dangerous for the robot. Instead, the algorithm calculates a jump that will work, even if higher than necessary, and uses those calculations. "We're too obsessed with optimal solutions," Kim continued. "This is one example where you just have to be good enough, because you're running, and have to make a decision very quickly."

MIT will demonstrate the Cheetah's jumping abilities at DARPA's Robotics Challenge this June, and present a paper about its systems for July's "Robotics: Science and Systems" Conference. I'd recommend hiding in underground bunkers for the summer while praying they don't notice us - it's our last best hope.

Source: MIT, via The Verge

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