Bipedal robots, whether they’re human-sized or not, are generally heavy and unstable and (with few exceptions) don’t lend themselves to dynamic motions like running and jumping. Researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Notre Dame have developed an experimental biped called KURMET that’s specifically designed for controllable, repetitive jumping*:
That big arm thing isn’t being used to aid in the jumping at all, it’s just there to simplify the system a little bit. Theoretically, it would be possible to do all of this research on an untethered fully three-dimensional robot, but for the purposes of figuring out how to make a robot hop in a stable manner, you only really need to focus on whether it’s tipping forward or backward as it jumps. The “fuzzy” term that you see in the video is referring to how KURMET is controlled: The robot learns how to jump through a training process, not by remembering rules, so there isn’t always a precisely pre-defined action that it’s required to take based on given inputs, which is why it’s called a fuzzy control system.
In the future, the researchers hope to apply evolutionary learning strategies to push KURMET’s performance boundaries, which may or may not include doing flips and playing hopscotch.
The researchers—Yiping Liu, Patrick Wensing, David Orin, and James Schmiedeler—describe their work in a paper, “Fuzzy Controlled Hopping in a Biped Robot,” presented yesterday at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), in Shanghai.
* Among the most incredible hopping machines ever created are the robots built by Marc Raibert and his team back when he was an MIT professor and directed the MIT Leg Lab. Raibert went on to co-found Boston Dynamics. Some of his robots are now on display at the MIT Museum.