Open to the public
Recent technological advances have given way to a new generation of versatile legged robots. These machines are envisioned to replace first responders in disaster scenarios and enable unmanned exploration of distant planets. To achieve these aims, however, our robots must be able to manage physical interaction through contact to move through unstructured terrain. This talk reports on the development of control systems for legged robots to achieve unprecedented levels of dynamic mobility by addressing many critical problems for contact interaction with the environment. Drawing on key insights from biomechanics, the talk will open with a description of optimization-based balance control algorithms for high-speed locomotion in humanoid robots It will then present design features of the MIT Cheetah 2 quadruped robot that enable dynamic locomotion in experimental hardware. A model predictive control framework for this robot will be described which enables the Cheetah to autonomously jump over obstacles with a maximum height of 40 cm (80% of leg length) while running at 2.5 m/s Across these results, dynamic physical interaction with the environment is exploited, rather than avoided, to achieve new levels of performance. Future research problems, targeted at the ;intersection of design and control, will be discussed to unlock this level of dynamic mobility more broadly for next generation robots in unstructured terrain.
Patrick Wensing is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Biomimetic Robotics Laboratory within the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2014. His research interests lie at the intersection of dynamics, optimization, and control as applied to agile, intelligent, and physically interactive robotic systems. He was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship for his dissertation research on balance control strategies for humanoid robots. At MIT, the results of his postdoctoral work on the MIT Cheetah 2 robot have received considerable publicity worldwide, with features from TIME, WIRED, and the Wall Street Journal.