Cheetah 3 Robot Can Climb Stairs With No Sight

The Cheetah 3 robot by MIT doesn’t need any sight to run up stairs as seen in a video recently released by MIT. Without cameras, for eyes to sense the stairs visually, this 90-pound robot is instead equipped with new algorithms that help navigation of the environment by touch.

Robots have climbed stairs before, such as the adorable SpotMini by Boston Dynamics. However, Spot used cameras. The team behind Cheetah 3 want it to operate without visually seeing the path in front of it. Relying on sight too much could make it stumble or even slow down. Sangbae Kim, an MIT mechanical engineer professor, asks what would happen if it stepped on something its cameras didn’t see, how would it react? This way, the blind locomotion is an asset to the robot. Sometimes it’s dangerous to trust our vision too much.

The robot‘s purpose will soon be to travel where humans can’t. This movement includes inside power plants for inspections according to an MIT news release. Now, dangerous, demanding, and dirty work is possible in a more safe manner through remotely controlled robots. However, sight might not be possible in these environments for the robots. The radiation in the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant fried the camera of the robot that researchers sent to look for blobs of nuclear fuel.

The Cheetah 3 is The Latest Version of Cheetah Robots That Keep Improving Over Time

The team used algorithms and sensors to the robot for proprioception— A sense of where in space its body is to overcome the problem of sight dependency. The upgrades for the robot include changing its hardware so it can stretch and twist. It now also has new predictive algorithms that help the Cheetah 3 change its gait to keep from tripping or falling over.

In MIT’s Video, the robot shows off its new features such as its ability to run up stairs. At least, for the most part, it still seems to be working things out as it goes. The new updates also allow it to wiggle and twist.

A rather horrifying feature through the human gaze is its inevitable knee joints. They bend the wrong way, allowing the robot to turn without actually turning.

Earlier versions of Cheetah robots broke the land speed record, even clearing hurdles almost two-feet tall. With how fast Cheetah robots are advancing, those pushing it around for testing might want to rethink their position.