Oregon State University researchers took a bipedal robot off the couch to first-ever robotic 5 kilometer outdoor run. The bot, Cassie, completed the route in 53 minutes, untethered and on a single battery charge. So the next time you go jogging, remember: that’s the time to beat if you want to be faster than the killer robots.
Cassie is the creation of OSU spin-off Agility Robotics, which has been promoting the commercial case for bipedal robots for some time now. Cassie itself was the company’s first product, manufactured between 2017 and 2019 and now embraced by research labs. Agility is now making an updated bipedal bot, Digit, which has arms to handle packages and has been used by Ford as part of a research project on autonomous delivery robots.
However, bipedal machines are a tough sell. Their main advantage is that they can easily navigate through spaces that are made for people, such as stairs and narrow corridors. But their bipedalism means they’re inherently less stable, especially when compared to quadrupedal robots like those made by Boston Dynamics. It’s just harder to knock something over when it’s on four legs.
The team behind Cassie say this may change, as new deep learning techniques allow bipedal robots to develop new ways to stabilize themselves during locomotion. However, these methods are not flawless. For example, Cassie fell twice during his 5K run, once because his computer brain overheated and the other because his human controller told him to turn too fast. (Yes, Cassie didn’t run on her own initiative.)
OSU professor of robotics and co-founder of Agility Robotics Jonathan Hurst still believes that bipedal bots will become the norm and blend in with humans. “In the not very distant future, everyone will see and interact with robots in many places in their daily lives, robots working alongside us and improving our quality of life,” Hurst said in an OSU blog post.
Who knows, you might even see them on your morning run.