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MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Cheetah 3 Robot now can leap and gallop across rough terrain, climb a staircase littered with debris, and quickly recover its balance when suddenly yanked or shoved, all while essentially blind.
Cheetah 3 Robot is intentionally designed to do all this without relying on cameras or any external environmental sensors.
“There are many unexpected behaviors the robot should be able to handle without relying too much on vision,” says the robot’s designer, Sangbae Kim, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “Vision can be noisy, slightly inaccurate, and sometimes not available, and if you rely too much on vision, your robot has to be very accurate in position and eventually will be slow. Therefore, we want the robot to rely more on tactile information. That way, it can handle unexpected obstacles while moving fast.”
So when is the robot going to be presented?
The team of researchers are going to present robot’s capabilities in October at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots, in Madrid. Researchers also will show the Cheetah 3 Robot’s improvements in comparison with Cheetah 2.
With the word of Kim “Cheetah 3 is designed to do versatile tasks such as power plant inspection, which involves various terrain conditions including stairs, curbs, and obstacles on the ground,” Kim says. “I think there are countless occasions where we [would] want to send robots to do simple tasks instead of humans. Dangerous, dirty, and difficult work can be done much more safely through remotely controlled robots.”
The improved robot may blindly make its way up staircases and through unstructured terrain, and can quickly recover its balance in the face of unexpected forces. This capability is realized owing to two new algorithms developed by Kim’s team:
1) A contact detection algorithm,
2) And a model-predictive control algorithm.
“When it comes to switching from the air to the ground, the switching has to be very well-done,” Kim says. “This algorithm is really about, ‘When is a safe time to commit my footstep?”
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