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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Cats and Athletes Teach Robots to Fall

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A cat.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying how cats and people fall, to apply the physics of those actions to robotic landings.

Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) researchers are studying feline and human behavior during falls with the goal of applying its physics to robotic landings.

Georgia Tech professor Karen Liu and her team have simulated the elements of long falls, and explored the possibility of a soft-roll landing to limit damage to robots. The researchers found a well-designed robot would have the "brains" to process the computations necessary to achieve a softer landing, but current motor and servo technology prevent the quick hardware movement needed for cat-like impacts. Future work could focus on teaching robots skills of orientation and impact, which humans can achieve but cats perform naturally.

"If we believe that one day we will have the capability to build robots that can do this kind of highly dynamic motion, we also have to teach robots how to fall--and how to land, safely, from a jump or a relatively high fall," Liu says.

She notes the capability would benefit robots conducting search-and-rescue missions in hazardous conditions.

From Georgia Institute of Technology
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