Quadruped Robots > LittleDog
Created by Boston Dynamics at request from DARPA, shortly after the BigDog pack mule prototype was created. LittleDog is a timid-looking four-legged robot about the size of a Chihuahua.
It is a research robot, designed to be used to find better locomotive learning approaches, which can then be transferred to its larger cousin. A standardized hardware configuration, with a carry handle for convenience, LittleDog was involved in a three stage test by DARPA and a half dozen leading AI labs, in order to probe the fundamental relationships among motor learning, dynamic control, perception of the environment, and rough-terrain locomotion.
In other words, to create robots that teach themselves how to walk, are aware of their environment, and can adapt to it, based on their own past experiences. Because the robotic platform is standardized, and the only changes are in software - the mind of the robot - it is relatively easy to take parts of the work of one lab, and combine it with work from another, then expect it to work as a new robot locomotion mind.
The robot has three motored joints on each leg, and its movements are controlled precisely by an on-board computer. An internal gyroscope lets the robot sense its orientation, while an external motion-capture system monitors the precise position of each limb and joint as it moves - proprioception for the robot.
The Phases of the Learning Locomotion Project
Phase III, currently under way, is a series of tests, that started summer 2008, designed to see how the robot did against obstacles it had never been programmed for. In the video below, an MIT LittleDog encounters stairs for the first time, and has an unauthodox method of tackling them.
Phase III is technically complete at time of writing, but the results have yet to be published by DARPA, or by any of the six labs (excluding the rare, occasional video).Thus, very little information is available at this time.
Boston Dynamics (Carnegie Mellon University)
Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC)
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
LocalRobotic Learning Locomotion