MIT's robo-cheetah can now see and jump over obstacles

The robotic cheetah MIT has been working on can now autonomously detect and jump over obstacles while running at 5 miles per hour.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico

MIT's crazy and amazing robotic cheetah has learned a new trick. Now, the four-legged robot that can run and jump like a real animal can detect and jump over obstacles.

A video posted to MIT's YouTube channel on May 28 shows the Cheetah 2 robot running on a treadmill and in an indoor gym at a speed of around 5 miles per hour (about 8 kilometers per hour) while hurdling over obstacles in its path.

That capability is made possible by new algorithms developed by MIT researchers that essentially let the robot see obstacles the way a human would -- or better? As an obstacle approaches, the robot can now estimate the object's height and distance to perfectly time the jump to leap over the obstacle without falling, and the calculation takes just 100 milliseconds to complete.

Over the course of testing on the treadmill and an indoor track, the Cheetah 2 robot was able to leap over objects as tall as 18 inches (0.46 meter) -- or about half of the robot's height -- while maintaining its average running speed. This feat makes the Cheetah 2 the first four-legged robot to run and jump over obstacles autonomously.

Watch the video above to see the Cheetah 2's new trick in action, then head over to MIT's blog post to learn more about the algorithm and what the researchers plan to do with the robot next. Here's hoping " achieving world domination by setting the bot loose on humanity" is not on that list.