Pushing it over is not enough to stop this robot

Aanybotics

It gets knocked down, but it gets up again. This dog-like robot learns to explore all the ways to stand up after falling over – or being shoved, as they often are during testing – one of the toughest tests for four-legged robots to pass.

ANYmal is about the size of a large dog, standing 70 centimetres high and weighing 35 kilograms. Its has 12 moving parts that must be coordinated to walk, run or right the robot after it falls over. Modelling all those points and the positions they could potentially take in various landscapes and at different speeds would take weeks for a human to input, says Jemin Hwangbo at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, who led the study.

Instead, he and his team used artificial intelligence to do the hard work. The AI modelled the motion of ANYmal, trying to strike a balance between moving efficiently, using the least amount of power, avoiding slips, and maintaining stable motion. All of these need to be taken into account when doing basic locomotion tasks, like moving in a straight line or running in a circle. Like a toddler learning to walk, it tested out one motion at a time to sees how well it works, learning as it goes to create instructions that can control the real robot.

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“For the locomotion task, it took just four hours on a normal desk computer,” Hwangbo says. They also ran the simulations for a running gait, and the AI discovered how to make ANYmal beat its own speed record, topping out at 1.5 metres per second.

The AI discovered a trotting gait similar to that of a four-legged animal that was most efficient to achieve speed without falling over. It also learned to roll over and pick itself back up after being pushed over, which could come in handy when crossing rocky landscapes. Or, it could help it fight back when researchers insist on shoving it in the name of science.

Journal reference: Science Robotics, DOI: 10.1126/scirobotics.aau5872

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