Baby robot steps

This four-legged robot learned to walk by itself!


A newborn foal (baby horse) usually starts walking on his own within one hour of being born. Compare that to the year and a half a human baby takes (on average) and it’s easy to see that the horses have a “leg up” on us (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany, designed a robotic baby horse that can learn how to walk by itself at about the same time as a real foal. The robot, named Morti, is guided by an AI system that doesn’t have knowledge about the details of the robot's legs, such as the precise dimensions of each component. Instead, The artificial intelligence imitates the neural networks that some animals have in their spinal cords, which enable them to walk by causing their muscles to contract in a regular pattern.

Morti receives walking instructions from the AI. Then, based on data from foot sensors that alert it when the robot drops and loses contact with the ground, it adjusts them. The researchers claim that initially Morti stumbles and falls, but after approximately an hour the AI discovers the ideal stride.

The robot uses less energy as it learns to walk because the AI learns rather than planning out every leg move in advance, which can consume a lot of energy. After one hour of training, It has uses 42% less energy than at the beginning.


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