MIT's Mini Cheetah Robot Can Backflip

MIT's creepy four-legged robot can now do backflips

MIT's creepy four-legged robot can now do backflips

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shared a video of their MiniCheetah robot successfully completing a backflip-and nailing the landing. Weighing just 20 pounds (9 kg), the robot is made of a torso and four legs, and nothing to pass for a head. The four-legged powerpack can bend and swing its legs wide, enabling it to walk either right-side up or upside down.

The robot is capable of running up to five miles per hour, can perform a 360-degree backflip from a standing position and will right itself quickly after being kicked to the ground. This latest offering from MIT, however, poses no such fictitious threat, with the new Mini Cheetah capable of doing backflips. The robot can also recover from unexpected impacts, and the team programmed it to automatically shut down when kicked to the ground. Each of its four legs are powered by three low-priced electric motors.

It seemed like just recently, robots used to move with stiff, jerky movements.

With a highlights reel of running, spinning and backflipping, MIT's Mini Cheetah robot has caught global attention - but its lasting legacy could be providing a versatile and relatively low-priced platform for AI researchers, an expert has said. Cheetah debuted in 2017 and was the next generation of the four-legged autonomous robot. "It assumes something awful has gone wrong", Katz explains, "so it just turns off, and all the legs fly wherever they go". "It involves very high torque, power, and acceleration capability, and has a high-speed impact at the end, all of which are very harsh on the robot's mechanical components". It would be impossible to watch the Mini Cheetah run through a pile and leaves and not think "Awwww, who's a good boy?" Inspired by a class they took a year ago, taught by EECS Professor Russ Tedrake, they set about programming the mini cheetah to perform a backflip.

So they optimized the Mini Cheetah's program specifying all the torques of each individual motors, as well as the period between the start and stop on every twelve motors, and, as Katz remembers: 'The first time we tried it, it miraculously worked!' That's something the old Cheetah 3 could never hope to accomplish. They are now building more of the four-legged machines, aiming for a set of 10, each of which they hope to loan out to other laboratories. With Cheetah 3, if you wanted to change anything you had to re-engineer a large part of the robot.

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