Saturday, November 27, 2021

Watch a bipedal robot run a first ever 5K

Researchers from Oregon State University coaxed a bipedal robotic robot off the couch to complete the first ever robotic 5K outdoor run. Cassie, the bot, completed the route in 53 mins, without tethering or using a single battery. So next time you’re out for a jog, remember: that’s the time to beat if you want out-pace the killer robots.

(For now.

Cassie is OSU spin-off Agility Robotics’ creation. Agility Robotics has been pushing for the commercial case for bipedal robotics for a while. Cassie itself was the company’s first product, manufactured between 2017 and 2019, and now embraced by research labs. Agility sells Digit, a bipedal robot that can handle packages. It was used by Ford in a research project on autonomous delivery robots.

Although bipedal machines can be difficult to sell, they are worth the effort. Their main advantage is their ability to navigate spaces meant for humans like stairs and narrow corridors. But their bipedalism means they’re inherently less stable, especially compared to quadrupedal robots like those made by Boston Dynamics. It’s just harder to knock something over when it’s standing on four legs.

Cassie the robot was accompanied and controlled during its 5K run.
Image by OSU

Cassie’s team believes this could change, as new deep learning techniques will allow bipedal robots develop new ways of stabilizing themselves during locomotion. These methods aren’t flawless, though. Cassie fell twice during its 5K run, for example — once because its controlling computer overheated, and the other because its controller directed it to take a corner too quickly. (Yes, Cassie did not follow its own instructions.

Jonathan Hurst, an OSU robotics professor who is also the co-founder of Agility Robotics, remains confident that bipedal robots will be the norm. They will blend in with humans in their natural environment. “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,” said Hurst in an OSU blog post.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even see them out on your morning run.

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