MIT's robot cheetah can now land a perfect running jump on its own

MIT’s robot cheetah is getting more realistic by the day. While it still looks more like a ram than a cheetah, it’s getting closer to recreating a cheetah’s speed, agility, and movement patterns.

Scientists at MIT’s Biometrics Robotics Lab have now trained the Cheetah 2 to jump over objects at high speed, whereas before its greatest achievement was running untethered.

Cheetah 2 jumps in harnessPlay GIFYoutube/MITCheetah 2 does a test jump in a harness

Cheetah 2 can now perform a running jump after the team uploaded an algorithm that allows the robot to react to its surroundings.

The robot uses a laser distance sensor to map its environment, so that objects visual scene that do not show up as a straight line appear as obstacles. The robot can estimate the size and distance of an obstacle in order to adjust its jump, according to researchers. 

Here, Cheetah 2 demonstrates the running jump as obstacles are thrown at it, with the biggest hurdle being 40 centimetres tall.

Cheetah harness jump 2Play GIFYoutube/MITCheetah 2 jumps a 40cm object

When it detects the obstacle, the cheetah replans its step lengths to get into the right position for the jump. Then, an algorithm carefully selects how much its legs should thrust to get over the obstacle.

Here comes the real test. MIT researchers Hae Wong Park, Patrick Wensing, Sangbae Kim then let the robot off its leash to see whether it could freely jump three objects in quick succession. And it did!

Cheetah 2 three jumpsPlay GIFYoutube/MITThree in a row!

Here’s that last one again in slow motion:

Cheetah 2 slow moPlay GIFYoutube/MITLook at that jump!

Here’s the whole video:

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