What robotics experts have been able to accomplish with legged robots over the last several years has been quite amazing. Cassie running a 5K at Oregon State University in July comes to mind. Researchers at ETH Zurich stated this week that they were pushing the physical capabilities of their own ANYmal robot in a similar way by training it to climb a local mountain. The team-taught the quadruped to climb up neighboring Mount Etzel, a minor mountain that stands 1,098 meters (3,600 feet) above sea level (which bears more than a passing resemblance to Boston Dynamics’ work).
According to the researchers, the robot completed the 120-meter climb in 31 minutes, which is four minutes faster than human hikers are. Even more impressive is the fact that the robot seemed to have completed the assignment without stumbling or misstepping – something that few people can claim.
The achievement achieved, according to the researchers, by a control technique that blends imagery with tactile input and recently featured in a scholarly article. The coupling allows the robot to navigate on uneven terrain and in low visibility, which are both common problems while trekking. The robot determines, among other things, how cautiously it should take its steps based on the feedback.
Before the quadruped ascended the mountain, the technology tested in a virtual setting. In a press release, principal researcher Marco Hutter notes, “The robot has learned to combine visual awareness of its environment with proprioception – its sense of touch – based on direct leg contact.” “It can now tackle hard terrain faster, more efficiently, and, most importantly, more robustly,” Hutter explains. ANYmal will be able to go places that are too dangerous for people or too difficult for other robots in the future.
A significant trait that roboticists have been attempting to achieve in quadrupeds is the capacity to keep solid footing on rough terrain. Such real-time analysis could eventually be valuable for robots placed into risky circumstances in order to keep humans safe. The team-taught the quadruped to climb up neighboring Mount Etzel, a minor mountain that stands 1,098 meters (3,600 feet) above sea level (which bears more than a passing resemblance to Boston Dynamics’ work).