MIT’s Cheetah robot has gone through several iterations over the past few years as researchers work on making a mobile, self-guiding quadruped machine. The 90-pound Cheetah 3 has added a new skill to its resume: “blind locomotion,” meaning the ability to traverse uneven terrain without the use of visual sensors.
The researchers’ belief is that vision is one of the most easily obscured senses — fog or other inclement weather could pose a problem — so two new algorithms for contact detection and leg control were deemed valuable.
Cheetah 3 is designed for power plant inspection and other potentially dangerous manual work, and also improves on its predecessor with an extended range of motion. It can stretch backward and forward and side to side with more flexibility than its predecessor.
The researchers expect the final product will have cameras for visual awareness as well, but if the robot ends up in a tough spot where it can’t see, it will still be able to reliably put one foot in front of the other.