This robot will keep running, even when poked with a stick

The University of Tokyo has released a video of a running robot, able to pelt across rough terrain without falling on its face.

Actually, it has no face. ACHIRES is a pair of mechanical legs, running with a somewhat jaunty gait across foam obstacles. At 16.4cm tall, and managing speeds of 4km/h, the petite robo-athlete won’t be breaking marathon records anytime soon, but it brings us one step closer to racing machines… or real-life mech suits.

The bi-pedal machine is the result of research from the university’s Ishikawa Senoo Laboratory, showcasing some impressive posture stablisation technology that stops the small robot from toppling over foam pieces thrown onto its treadmill. Even when it’s poked with a pole, the runner keeps on running.

As a description of the ACHIRES system reads, the tech relies on “high-speed vision and high-speed actuators” to adapt the robot’s posture using a camera that compares the machine’s actual position against a reference posture.

“In order to [stabilise] posture, a high-speed camera is placed on the side of the robot and images the robot at 600fps,” the video explains. “For successful running, the robot must kick the ground in [an] appropriate posture every step. The reference posture at every moment is interpolated based on the desired jumping posture.”

By feeding back information on posture in real-time, the high-speed camera allows ACHIRES to stablise back into its intended, reference posture. The researchers claim this allows the robot to run over rough terrain without any information needed about incoming obstacles – all that’s needed is the measurement of body posture provided by the camera.

That means all sorts of obstacles can be thrown under ACHIRES, and it is able to adapt on the fly. The video explains that the maximum height of the obstacles thrown under the robot was 15mm, which equates to around 10% of its leg length. Obstacles of around 7cm would give that same proportion in a human.

ACHIRES’ reliance on a camera to track its position means the robot is currently limited in real-world terms, but with a few more iterations the team could find a different way to integrate the posture tracking. You can imagine a future version of the technology scaled up to human-sized legs, or even bigger, à la sci-fi mech suits.

The video concludes with one of the researchers poking ACHIRES with a pole. The robot is able to adapt and keep on moving. It calls to mind the clip that emerged earlier this year from Boston Dynamics, with a robot dog being pulled around, as well as an earlier video of one of the company’s ATLAS robots being pushed onto the ground. Let’s just hope they don’t ever want to push us back.

Source: Prosthetic Knowledge

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