Robotic Cheetah Detects and Clears Hurdles While Galloping at 5 MPH

The MIT researchers who built a robotic cheetah have now trained it to see and jump over hurdles as it runs - making it the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously. Three real-time algorithms were important to achieve these results. The robot uses a 2D laser distance sensor to perceive its environment, and processing of this laser distance data provides information about the upcoming obstacle. As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object's height and distance. The robot gauges the best position from which to jump, and adjusts its stride to land just short of the obstacle, before exerting enough force to push up and over. Based on the obstacle's height, the robot then applies a certain amount of force to land safely, before resuming its initial pace. In experiments on a treadmill and an indoor track, the cheetah robot successfully cleared obstacles up to 18 inches tall - over half of its own height - while maintaining an average running speed of 5 miles per hour. The research was funded in part by DARPA.