Last updated July 17, 2018 at 9:32 am
You can run, and you can hide, because it has one weakness at the moment.
Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed a robot that will be featuring in your nightmares tonight.
Called Cheetah 3, the 4-legged robot is fast, agile, stable and able to jump.
But what makes Cheetah 3 unique is that it does it all without any type of vision system.
The researchers released the video above showing the robot’s ability to walk and run at different speeds – topping out at about 11km/h. You could outrun it, but not for long before fatigue sets in.
Cheetah 3 can also twist and move, walk on 3 legs, walk across broken surfaces, and be pushed off balance without losing its footing.
But what’s most terrifying impressive are the Cheetah 3’s party pieces – it can climb stairs strewn with obstacles, and jump onto tables.
Usually it’s here where writers would say something like “If robots ever become sentient and vengeful, we’re so screwed,” however, without vision sensors the robot wouldn’t actually know where you’ve gone in order to chase you.
But the researchers have not ruled out adding vision systems in the future, to create the ultimate robot.
So yeah, “If robots ever become sentient and vengeful, we’re so screwed.”
In the meantime however, it has a number of non-nefarious uses.
Blindness is an asset, not a liability
“Cheetah 3 is designed to do versatile tasks such as power plant inspection, which involves various terrain conditions including stairs, curbs, and obstacles on the ground,” said the robot’s designer, Associate Professor Sangbae Kim.
“I think there are countless occasions where we [would] want to send robots to do simple tasks instead of humans. Dangerous, dirty, and difficult work can be done much more safely through remotely controlled robots.”
The 40-kilogram mechanical beast – about the size of a full-grown Labrador – is intentionally designed to do all this without relying on cameras or any external environmental sensors.
Instead, it nimbly “feels” its way through its surroundings in a way that engineers describe as “blind locomotion,” much like making one’s way across a pitch-black room.
Without needing to use vision to move actually makes the robot much more useful.
“Vision can be noisy, slightly inaccurate, and sometimes not available, and if you rely too much on vision, your robot has to be very accurate in position and eventually will be slow. So we want the robot to rely more on tactile information. That way, it can handle unexpected obstacles while moving fast,” said Kim.
“We want a very good controller without vision first.”
“And when we do add vision, even if it might give you the wrong information, the leg should be able to handle (obstacles). Because what if it steps on something that a camera can’t see? What will it do? That’s where blind locomotion can help. We don’t want to trust our vision too much.”
Image and video courtesy of MIT.