A partnership between NASA’s Johnson Space Center and IHMC Robotics has created an autonomous robot that can navigate a path of uneven cinder blocks.
Named Valkyrie, the robot uses point clouds gathered from a LiDAR sensor that is then processed to find planar regions in the world. The simple footstep navigation plans where to step to reach a goal location specified by the operator.
In the video, a robot slowly, cautiously navigates a curved path of cinder blocks that are located at various distances apart from one another. The robot successfully manages to cross the path reaching its final destination on a flat portion.
The bipedal robot is autonomous and is given only the final position goal and walking speed is limited by maximum knee joint velocity while being tethered to a safety cord operated by a human.
The ability of robots to cross uneven or rocky terrain could enable these machines to explore the lands of another planet or places on Earth that are hard to reach or dangerous to humans. Or it could enable robots in workplaces to navigate where the terrain is not a flat surface.