Researchers in the robotics laboratory at MIT are working on a new acrobatic robot, now in the simulation phase. The work is not just on the robot itself, but also on all the software infrastructure needed to allow it to do what researchers want it to do.
A new humanoid robot design
MIT’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab has already developed a variety of legged robots, including Cheetah and HERMES. Recently, researchers have been working on Mini Cheetahs (developed with funding and support from Naver Labs), which are designed for dynamic operations like exploring walking and small stunts. In a recently published article on arXiv, Matthew Chignoli, Donghyun Kim, Elijah Stanger-Jones and Sangbae Kim describe a new humanoid robot design.
As part of a Convenient system design for highly dynamic motion control humanoid robot, they also describe this design as a dynamic motion planner and a landing controller. So it’s not just the robot itself, but all the software infrastructure needed to allow it to do what researchers want it to do.
Fluid movements, but dynamic as objectives
Once the MIT humanoid exits the simulation, its appearance will match a vertical version of Mini Cheetah. Concretely, the torso and the arms of the robot are very similar to those of the Mini Cheetah, but the design of the legs is totally new. This features redesigned actuators with higher power and better torque density.
For this new leg design, the main objective is to allow smooth movements, but heel-to-toe dynamics that occur in human walking and running. And this while maintaining low inertia for fluid interactions with ground contacts. Dynamic ankle actions have been rare in humanoid robots. MIT researchers hope to develop sturdy, low-inertia, and powerful legs that can mimic the actions of human legs.
Always improve the performance of proprioceptive actuator technology
In terms of design strategy, humanoid robots are currently dominated by rhydraulically actuated obots and robots with elastic actuators in series. For their part, MIT researchers continue to improve the performance of their proprioceptive actuator technology. They work on a unique combination of high torque density, high bandwidth force control and impact mitigation ability. They aim to demonstrate that this technology is optimal for the highly dynamic environments and the locomotion of any legged robot, including humanoids.
MIT puts a lot of effort into accurately simulating this research. They particularly model the physical constraints highlighted by the robot when it performs dynamic movements. The design of the MIT Humanoid is considered complete and production is scheduled for the summer. The researchers hope that the humanoid thus constructed will be able to do parkour on difficult terrain.