Scientists have been working on robots that could travel across rough terrain for many years and, while we're still a few years away from these devices being able to hold a weapon while hunting the last desperate vestiges of humanity across a broken and barren landscape, that inevitable future is now a bit closer due to advances in teaching a four-legged running robot to jump over impressively tall structures.
"To get a running jump, the robot plans out its path, much like a human runner: As it detects an approaching obstacle, it estimates that object’s height and distance," the Deep Stuff blog explained.
"The robot gauges the best position from which to jump, and adjusts its stride to land just short of the obstacle, before exerting enough force to push up and over. Based on the obstacle’s height, the robot then applies a certain amount of force to land safely, before resuming its initial pace."
The video embedded above shows the jumping robot in action and explains the process it uses to do so safely.
"If you want to optimize for, say, energy efficiency, you would want the robot to barely clear the obstacle — but that’s dangerous, and finding a truly optimal solution would take a lot of computing time," Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, stated. "In running, we don’t want to spend a lot of time to find a better solution. We just want one that’s feasible."
At this stage in computing merely getting the robot over obstacles as it focuses on its target is enough. If they were forced to give the device other concerns, such as mercy, compassion or the ability to feel fear, the programming would likely be overwhelmed.
Creating a fast-moving, jumping device with no ability to be reasoned with is the best we can do, for now.