Legged Robot Developed by MIT Researchers That Can Dribble a Soccer Ball
MIT researchers from the Improbable Artificial Intelligence Lab have created a legged robotic system capable of dribbling a soccer ball under various challenging terrains. This development is significant as it allows robots to navigate landscapes that are inaccessible to wheeled robots, such as those encountered during search-and-rescue missions in disaster scenarios.
The researchers used a combination of onboard sensing and computing to enable the robot, named “DribbleBot,” to adapt to different natural terrains like sand, mud, gravel, and snow. They employed a reinforcement learning approach where the robot received positive reinforcement for successfully dribbling the ball and negative reinforcement for mistakes. Over time, the robot learned to manipulate the soccer ball with its legs to achieve the desired velocity.
To speed up the data collection process, the team created a simulation in which thousands of versions of the robot were simulated simultaneously. This allowed them to gather data 4,000 times faster than using just one physical robot.
In addition to dribbling, DribbleBot could also recover from falls and navigate unfamiliar terrains. This was made possible by a recovery controller integrated into its system. The researchers aim to apply the lessons learned from DribbleBot’s development to other tasks involving locomotion and object manipulation.
While DribbleBot still faces challenges, such as dealing with steps or slopes, it represents a significant advancement in the field of robotics. By carrying all its sensors, cameras, and compute onboard, DribbleBot can operate in real-world environments without the need for a fixed base and external computers.
The researchers believe that DribbleBot is just the beginning and envision a future where robots exhibit even greater agility and coordination. This development opens up possibilities for various applications beyond soccer, such as quickly transporting objects using robot limbs or arms.