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This article was published on July 6, 2018


Watch MIT’s blind robot run, jump, and climb stairs

Abhimanyu Ghoshal
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Abhimanyu Ghoshal

Managing Editor

Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and Abhimanyu is TNW's Managing Editor, and is all about personal devices, Asia's tech ecosystem, as well as the intersection of technology and culture. Hit him up on Twitter, or write in: [email protected].

We’ve seen robots that can walk on two legs, survive bullying, and lift heavy objects – but all those tasks become more difficult without a camera to help them ‘see’ what’s around them. Can they get around without the power of vision?

That’s exactly what MIT researchers are trying to find out – and it looks like they may be onto something. They’ve developed a blind robot, named Cheetah 3, that can run, jump onto platforms, and even climb stairs littered with obstacles, without issue.

That’s thanks two new algorithms developed by Sangbae Kim, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. One helps the robot decide how to proceed after it’s encountered an obstacle – whether it should step forward, for example, or pull back – while the other helps it figure out how much force to use for each of those actions so as to complete its process of motion successfully.

The 40kg robot can also recover from being shoved or yanked in any direction.

Kim believes that this breakthrough could advance the use of robots in various tasks that humans are better off avoiding:

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.

You can read more about how the algorithms work on this page; the research will be presented in October at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots, in Madrid, Spain.