Looks like we’re going to have to get off the couch now — robots like Oregon State University’s (OSU) Cassie are officially running 5km tracks now and we’re going to have to be faster than they are. You know, just in case.
It’s not like we haven’t seen this coming. Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot has steadily been improving its athleticism over the years, so it was only a matter of time before a bipedal machine joined us on a Parkrun. Thankfully, many of us will be able to beat Cassie’s 5K time — the robot managed to complete the run in 53 minutes.
Catching up to Cassie
The OSU’s robotic biped wasn’t exactly threatening when pulling off its athletic feat — it required an escort and a helping hand on two occasions during the run. These bits of assistance added about six and a half minutes to the total 53:03 time, and were required because the onboard computer overheated on the first occasion, and the person piloting the robot (it’s not autonomous, yet) executed a turn too fast on the second. Still, that’s a 47 minute time. Not too shabby but not spectacular either.
The run is remarkable for a few reasons. It was done on a single battery charge and without recourse to a tether of any kind. It’s also the first time a bipedal robot used machine learning to control its motion over outdoor terrain. Perhaps worryingly, Cassie the robot taught itself to run and used those skills to set its 5km PB.
Johnathan Hurst, the robotics professor responsible for directing much of the project, said “In the not very distant future, everyone will see and interact with robots in many places in their everyday lives, robots that work alongside us and improve our quality of life.” Delivery functions are an obvious starting point, but Hurst believes they’ll assist inside human homes at some point too. We’ve seen that movie before. Will Smith was in it.