A robot named Cassie has made history by completing its first outdoor five-kilometre run.
Designed at Oregon State University (OSU) and produced by OSU spinout company Agility Robotics, Cassie the robot is a two-legged device that has been developed under the direction of robotics professor Jonathan Hurst and funded with a 16-month, $1 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The machine is powered by a battery and taught itself to run on its two legs with what Oregon State University explains is a ‘deep reinforcement learning algorithm’, in turn becoming the first bipedal robot to use machine learning to control its running gait on outdoor terrain.
Cassie was first introduced in 2017 and last month successfully completed the 5k on Oregon State’s campus, where it navigated the course in just over 53 minutes.
Footage from the run shows the robot, which has knees that bend like an ostrich’s, jogging down roads and through fields, all the while displaying ‘dynamic balancing’.
See the video of Cassie below:
In a press release, Oregon State University explained: ‘Running requires dynamic balancing – the ability to maintain balance while switching positions or otherwise being in motion – and Cassie has learned to make infinite subtle adjustments to stay upright while moving.’
Cassie completed the run on a single battery charge, with the run time of 53 minutes 3 seconds including about six and a half minutes of reset time following two falls, one of which occurred because of an overheated computer and the other because the robot was asked to perform too fast.
Commenting on the development of Cassie, robotics professor Hurst said: ‘The Dynamic Robotics Laboratory students in the OSU College of Engineering combined expertise from biomechanics and existing robot control approaches with new machine learning tools. This type of holistic approach will enable animal-like levels of performance. It’s incredibly exciting.’
Jeremy Dao, a PhD student in the Dynamic Robotics Laboratory, added: ‘Cassie is a very efficient robot because of how it has been designed and built, and we were really able to reach the limits of the hardware and show what it can do.’
With the research at Oregon State University having enabled multiple breakthroughs, Hurst said walking robots will one day be a common sight in our day-to-day lives.
He said: ‘In the not very distant future, everyone will see and interact with robots in many places in their everyday lives, robots that work alongside us and improve our quality of life.’
The professor added that bipedal robots eventually will have the intelligence and safety capabilities necessary to help people in their own homes, as well as take on logistics work such as package delivery.
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