The new planning algorithm for robots with arm-like appendages was developed at the University of Michigan. It found successful paths three-times as often as standard algorithms, the developers said, with much less processing time.

“In a collapsed building or on very rough terrain, a robot won't always be able to balance itself and move forward with just its feet,” said associate professor Dmitry Berenson. “You need new algorithms to figure out where to put both feet and hands. You need to coordinate all these limbs together to maintain stability, and what that boils down to is a very difficult problem.”

The research enables robots to determine how difficult terrain is before calculating a successful path forward, which might include bracing on a wall with one or two ‘hands’ while taking the next step forward.

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