Mar 21, 2022

MIT researchers use simulation to train a robot to run at high speeds

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, robotics/AI

Four-legged robots are nothing novel — Boston Dynamics’ Spot has been making the rounds for some time, as have countless alternative open source designs. But with theirs, researchers at MIT claim to have broken the record for the fastest robot run recorded. Working out of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), the team says that they developed a system that allows the MIT-designed Mini Cheetah to learn to run by trial and error in simulation.

While the speedy Mini Cheetah has limited direct applications in the enterprise, the researchers believe that their technique could be used to improve the capabilities of other robotics systems — including those used in factories to assemble products before they’re shipped to customers. It’s timely work as the pandemic accelerates the adoption of autonomous robots in industry. According to an Automation World survey, 44.9% of the assembly and manufacturing facilities that currently use robots consider the robots to be an integral part of their operations.

Today’s cutting-edge robots are “taught” to perform tasks through reinforcement learning, a type of machine learning technique that enables robots to learn by trial and error using feedback from their own actions and experiences. When a robot performs a “right” action — i.e., an action that’ll lead it toward a desired goal, like stowing an object on a shelf — it receives a “reward.” When it makes a mistake, the robot either doesn’t receive a reward or is “punished” by losing a previous reward. Over time, the robot discovers ways to maximize its reward and perform actions that achieve the sought-after goal.

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