We often refer to drones as “flying robots.” Well, here’s a two-legged robot that has learned how to run, and it’s an amazing thing to watch.
We’ve written before about Spot, the dog-like ground robot built by Boston Dynamics. But we were just introduced to Cassie, a robot/drone that walks like an ostrich. It’s an ongoing project at Oregon State University — and it is unbelievably cool.
Let’s watch as this drone runs 5K on a single battery charge.
First of all, an introduction: Cassie was invented at Oregon State University. The machine was developed with a $1 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, also known as DARPA. Robotics professor Jonathan Hurst was in charge of the project and, clearly, knew what he was doing.
Cassie first made the scene in 2017. Ever since then, OSU students – with funding from the National Science Foundation – have been exploring machine learning options to make Cassie smarter. And now, the ground-based robot has notched up an incredible milestone: It covered 5 kilometers (3.125 miles) in 53 minutes.
What did that look like?
Well, pretty amazing. And think about it: a bipedal robot, going 5 kilometers on a single charge at a running gait. We’ll load up YouTube here in a second, but if this reminds you of a bird – specifically, an ostrich – you’re bang-on. Cassie’s knees bend like those of an ostrich. This is from the OSU article on Cassie’s accomplishment:
Cassie, with knees that bend like an ostrich’s, taught itself to run with what’s known as a deep reinforcement learning algorithm. Running requires dynamic balancing – the ability to maintain balance while switching positions or otherwise being in motion – and Cassie has learned to make infinite subtle adjustments to stay upright while moving.
Okay, let’s watch Cassie do its thing:
Here we go:
There’s something about that bipedal walk with the Ostrich-like legs that’s kind of mind-blowing. And the OSU article suggests, realistically, that devices like this will become much more common in our lifetimes. Here’s professor Jonathan Hurst:
In the not very distant future, everyone will see and interact with robots in many places in their everyday lives, robots that work alongside us and improve our quality of life. The Dynamic Robotics Laboratory students in the OSU College of Engineering combined expertise from biomechanics and existing robot control approaches with new machine learning tools. This type of holistic approach will enable animal-like levels of performance. It’s incredibly exciting.
We couldn’t agree more. By the way, Cassie was produced and available for commercial sale between 2017 and 2019 by Agility Robotics, an OSU spinoff. Here’s its current model, named Digit:
These machines are amazing. If you’d seen one of these on an episode of Star Trek a decade ago, you might have thought: “Wow – amazing if we have those in the future.”
Well, between drones, holographic projections, robotics — and the coming wave of passenger-carrying drones — it won’t be long before some aspects of the world are reminiscent of Blade Runner. The future isn’t coming; it’s on our doorstep.
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