Watch MIT’s Cheetah 3 robot navigate complex environments without cameras

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Something to look forward to: State-of-the-art robotics have all sorts of practical applications although it’ll still be a while before advanced machinery like this is affordable enough for mainstream use. Still, it’s neat to get a glimpse of the future in the now.

Move over Boston Dynamics, there’s a new contender in the race for robotic supremacy. MIT researchers this week revealed that their Cheetah 3 robot is now able to climb a staircase littered with debris, leap and gallop across rough terrain and quickly recover its balance when shoved or pulled.

Not impressed, you say? Consider this – Cheetah 3 accomplishes all of this and more while essentially blind.

The 90-pound mechanical nightmare is roughly the size of a full-grown Labrador and is designed to navigate its way through the world without the aid of cameras or external environmental sensors. Instead, it “feels” its way through its surroundings, much like a person making their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night in the dark.

Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT that designed the robot, said vision can be noisy, slightly inaccurate and sometimes not available.

“If you rely too much on vision, your robot has to be very accurate in position and eventually will be slow. So we want the robot to rely more on tactile information. That way, it can handle unexpected obstacles while moving fast.”

Kim hopes that within the next few years, the robot will be able to carry out tasks that are too dangerous or inaccessible for humans to attempt. “Dangerous, dirty, and difficult work can be done much more safely through remotely controlled robots,” he said.

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