Following in the footsteps of Boston Dynamics, Agility Robotics also seems to be making progress. For the first time ever, researchers used reinforcement learning to teach this robot to walk on its own. However, this training did not take place in real conditions for safety reasons.
Learn to walk alone
In a publication of April 8, 2021, the MIT Technology Review simply calls for forgetting Boston Dynamics. How is it possible ? This company is having real success with its Spot robot and is continuing the development of other very promising robots. According to the US magazine, the Cassie robot from Agility Robotics is now able to learn to walk completely autonomously.
The solution comes from researchers at the University of California at Berkeley. These resorted to reinforcement learning so Cassie could learn to walk on her own. However, this learning did not take place outdoors on rough terrain. Indeed, the risk of seeing the machine damaged due to multiple falls was too great.
US researchers have developed a three-step system. The first requires a virtual environment – named MuJoCo – as well as a simulation of the robot having to learn a complete library of movements. However, this type of simulation is not enough for the learning to apply to the real world. In order to validate the results of the first training, the scientists used another virtual environment called SimMechanics. The latter has more details. On the other hand, it requires a much more computing power and therefore does not work in real time.
A good ability to “compensate”
After transferring the learning to the robot, the researchers tested it on the university premises and outdoors on flat ground. Cassie was able to stand and walk successfully, even in a squatting position. Moreover, the robot showed its ability to compensate in the event of a shock or trip. In addition, the robot suffered a failure of two engines in its left leg but was able to continue to evolve.
“We still have a long way to go before humanoid robots can function and live reliably in human environments ”, said Zhongyu Li, one of the leaders of the work.
Obviously, Cassie today absolutely cannot compete with the Boston Dynamics Spot robot, or even with the Atlas robot, which has since become a parkour pro. However, this significant advance could accelerate its development, as well as that of many other robots.
Here is the Cassie robot demonstration video: