Robot Cassie has set a Guinness world record for running 100 meters among bipedal robots

Cassie the robot set the Guinness World Record for the 100m bipedal robot, and while it’s nowhere near the pace of the world’s best athletes, the record is a great demonstration of the progress of robotics and engineering, reports The New Atlas.

Cassie was created by Agility Robotics, which is a subsidiary of Oregon State University, and since 2017 the robot has been operating as a platform for robotics research. Since then, Cassie has continued to develop in great strides, and in 2021 showed amazing progress, running the 5km distance in just over 53 minutes.

The breakthrough involved using machine learning algorithms to give the robot the ability to run, overcoming its unique mechanics and knees that bend like an ostrich to stay upright. With this ability, Cassie joins a group of bipedal running robots that include Boston Dynamics’ Atlas humanoid robot and Mabel, believed to be the world’s fastest bipedal robot. But when optimizing Cassie for the 100-meter sprint, the researchers had to go back to design.

“Cassie has been a platform for pioneering research in robot learning for locomotion,” said Oregon State University graduate student Devin Crowley. “Completing a 5-km was about reliability and endurance, which left open the question of, how fast can Cassie run? That led the research team to shift its focus to speed.”

Over the course of a week, the team speed-trained Cassie through a year’s worth of simulation to determine the most effective move. But it wasn’t just a matter of speed. In order for the Guinness World Record to be recorded, Cassie had to start standing and then return to the same position after crossing the finish line, rather than simply roll over. This meant that Cassie had to use two neural networks, one for running fast and one for standing still, and gracefully transition between them.

“Starting and stopping in a standing position are more difficult than the running part, similar to how taking off and landing are harder than actually flying a plane,” said artificial intelligence professor Alan Fern,. “This 100-meter result was achieved by a deep collaboration between mechanical hardware design and advanced artificial intelligence for the control of that hardware.”

Eventually, Cassie completed the 100-meter sprint in 24.72 seconds, setting a Guinness World Record for a bipedal robot. This is much slower than the 10-second results of the world’s best sprinters, but researchers believe that further progress will only accelerate.