One of the newest technological undertakings by scientists all over the world is the use of artificial intelligence. It comes as no surprise, then, that researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have constructed a robot cheetah that can both see and engage in athletic challenges. This technological creation is the first of its kind — the first four-legged robot powered by the artificial intelligence known to man.
Jumping over hurdles like a human runner
The new cheetah machine acts like its namesake predator would in the wild: it is fashioned to be able to detect its surroundings and obstacles, and physically bound over them. In the conducted experiment, the robot cheetah was able to jump over hurdles that were 18 inches tall at the average speed of five miles per hour, with a 90 percent success rate. What’s fascinating is that the actual jumps weren’t programmed; merely the ability to jump was programmed into the mechanical cheetah. The robot is entirely self-ruling: it is equipped with a LIDAR system that enables it to “see” the obstacles, and then to jump over them. This is the same kind of system that is built in self-driving cars.
It works like this: lasers employed by the LIDAR system create a three-dimensional map of the robot’s surroundings, giving the robot cheetah its “eyes.” This allows the cheetah to “plan” its own path. It can approach an obstacle, and estimate its height and the distance between them. The robot cheetah can subsequently assess and adjust its position to jump, before increasing the power in its “kick” to cross the hurdle.
New AI strides: managing the balance and energy of the robot cheetah
Sangbae Kim, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is part of the team that has designed and engineered this miraculous undertaking. To him, there is no physical behavior more dynamic than a running jump. The most important thing to keep in mind in the experiments is to manage the balance and energy of the robot cheetah and to figure out ways for it to sustainably handle impact after it lands.
Currently, the team wants to optimize the robot’s energy efficiency. To do this, the robot cheetah would have to barely jump over the obstacle. A solution to this would most likely take more computation time.
The team at MIT plans to demonstrate the robot cheetah and its running jump next weekend at the DARPA Robotics Challenge in Pomona, California.