Benchmarking animal-level agility with quadruped robots – Google AI Weblog


Creating robots that exhibit sturdy and dynamic locomotion capabilities, just like animals or people, has been a long-standing purpose within the robotics neighborhood. Along with finishing duties rapidly and effectively, agility permits legged robots to maneuver by complicated environments which might be in any other case troublesome to traverse. Researchers at Google have been pursuing agility for multiple years and throughout varied type elements. But, whereas researchers have enabled robots to hike or jump over some obstacles, there may be nonetheless no usually accepted benchmark that comprehensively measures robotic agility or mobility. In distinction, benchmarks are driving forces behind the event of machine studying, comparable to ImageNet for pc imaginative and prescient, and OpenAI Gym for reinforcement studying (RL).

In “Barkour: Benchmarking Animal-level Agility with Quadruped Robots”, we introduce the Barkour agility benchmark for quadruped robots, together with a Transformer-based generalist locomotion coverage. Impressed by canine agility competitions, a legged robotic should sequentially show quite a lot of expertise, together with shifting in several instructions, traversing uneven terrains, and leaping over obstacles inside a restricted timeframe to efficiently full the benchmark. By offering a various and difficult impediment course, the Barkour benchmark encourages researchers to develop locomotion controllers that transfer quick in a controllable and versatile approach. Moreover, by tying the efficiency metric to actual canine efficiency, we offer an intuitive metric to know the robotic efficiency with respect to their animal counterparts.

We invited a handful of dooglers to attempt the impediment course to make sure that our agility targets had been lifelike and difficult. Small canine full the impediment course in roughly 10s, whereas our robotic’s typical efficiency hovers round 20s.

Barkour benchmark

The Barkour scoring system makes use of a per impediment and an total course goal time primarily based on the goal velocity of small canine within the novice agility competitions (about 1.7m/s). Barkour scores vary from 0 to 1, with 1 equivalent to the robotic efficiently traversing all of the obstacles alongside the course inside the allotted time of roughly 10 seconds, the common time wanted for a similar-sized canine to traverse the course. The robotic receives penalties for skipping, failing obstacles, or shifting too slowly.

Our commonplace course consists of 4 distinctive obstacles in a 5m x 5m space. This can be a denser and smaller setup than a typical canine competitors to permit for straightforward deployment in a robotics lab. Starting firstly desk, the robotic must weave by a set of poles, climb an A-frame, clear a 0.5m broad bounce after which step onto the top desk. We selected this subset of obstacles as a result of they check a various set of expertise whereas retaining the setup inside a small footprint. As is the case for actual canine agility competitions, the Barkour benchmark might be simply tailored to a bigger course space and will incorporate a variable variety of obstacles and course configurations.

Overview of the Barkour benchmark’s impediment course setup, which consists of weave poles, an A-frame, a broad bounce, and pause tables. The intuitive scoring mechanism, impressed by canine agility competitions, balances velocity, agility and efficiency and might be simply modified to include different kinds of obstacles or course configurations.

Studying agile locomotion expertise

The Barkour benchmark incorporates a various set of obstacles and a delayed reward system, which pose a big problem when coaching a single coverage that may full your complete impediment course. So in an effort to set a robust efficiency baseline and display the effectiveness of the benchmark for robotic agility analysis, we undertake a student-teacher framework mixed with a zero-shot sim-to-real method. First, we practice particular person specialist locomotion expertise (trainer) for various obstacles utilizing on-policy RL strategies. Particularly, we leverage recent advances in large-scale parallel simulation to equip the robotic with particular person expertise, together with strolling, slope climbing, and leaping insurance policies.

Subsequent, we practice a single coverage (scholar) that performs all the abilities and transitions in between through the use of a student-teacher framework, primarily based on the specialist expertise we beforehand skilled. We use simulation rollouts to create datasets of state-action pairs for every one of many specialist expertise. This dataset is then distilled right into a single Transformer-based generalist locomotion coverage, which might deal with varied terrains and modify the robotic’s gait primarily based on the perceived setting and the robotic’s state.

Throughout deployment, we pair the locomotion transformer coverage that’s able to performing a number of expertise with a navigation controller that gives velocity instructions primarily based on the robotic’s place. Our skilled coverage controls the robotic primarily based on the robotic’s environment represented as an elevation map, velocity instructions, and on-board sensory data offered by the robotic.

Deployment pipeline for the locomotion transformer structure. At deployment time, a high-level navigation controller guides the actual robotic by the impediment course by sending instructions to the locomotion transformer coverage.

Robustness and repeatability are troublesome to realize after we purpose for peak efficiency and most velocity. Generally, the robotic would possibly fail when overcoming an impediment in an agile approach. To deal with failures we practice a recovery policy that rapidly will get the robotic again on its ft, permitting it to proceed the episode.


We consider the Transformer-based generalist locomotion coverage utilizing custom-built quadruped robots and present that by optimizing for the proposed benchmark, we acquire agile, sturdy, and versatile expertise for our robotic in the actual world. We additional present evaluation for varied design decisions in our system and their affect on the system efficiency.

Mannequin of the custom-built robots used for analysis.

We deploy each the specialist and generalist insurance policies to {hardware} (zero-shot sim-to-real). The robotic’s goal trajectory is offered by a set of waypoints alongside the assorted obstacles. Within the case of the specialist insurance policies, we change between specialist insurance policies through the use of a hand-tuned coverage switching mechanism that selects essentially the most appropriate coverage given the robotic’s place.

Typical efficiency of our agile locomotion insurance policies on the Barkour benchmark. Our custom-built quadruped robotic robustly navigates the terrain’s obstacles by leveraging varied expertise discovered utilizing RL in simulation.

We discover that fairly often our insurance policies can deal with surprising occasions and even {hardware} degradation leading to good common efficiency, however failures are nonetheless attainable. As illustrated within the picture beneath, in case of failures, our restoration coverage rapidly will get the robotic again on its ft, permitting it to proceed the episode. By combining the restoration coverage with a easy walk-back-to-start coverage, we’re capable of run repeated experiments with minimal human intervention to measure the robustness.

Qualitative instance of robustness and restoration behaviors. The robotic journeys and rolls over after heading down the A-frame. This triggers the restoration coverage, which allows the robotic to get again up and proceed the course.

We discover that throughout a lot of evaluations, the only generalist locomotion transformer coverage and the specialist insurance policies with the coverage switching mechanism obtain related efficiency. The locomotion transformer coverage has a barely decrease common Barkour rating, however reveals smoother transitions between behaviors and gaits.

Measuring robustness of the completely different insurance policies throughout a lot of runs on the Barkour benchmark.

Histogram of the agility scores for the locomotion transformer coverage. The best scores proven in blue (0.75 – 0.9) characterize the runs the place the robotic efficiently completes all obstacles.


We imagine that growing a benchmark for legged robotics is a crucial first step in quantifying progress towards animal-level agility. To determine a robust baseline, we investigated a zero-shot sim-to-real method, making the most of large-scale parallel simulation and up to date developments in coaching Transformer-based architectures. Our findings display that Barkour is a difficult benchmark that may be simply custom-made, and that our learning-based methodology for fixing the benchmark gives a quadruped robotic with a single low-level coverage that may carry out quite a lot of agile low-level expertise.


The authors of this put up are actually a part of Google DeepMind. We want to thank our co-authors at Google DeepMind and our collaborators at Google Analysis: Wenhao Yu, J. Chase Kew, Tingnan Zhang, Daniel Freeman, Kuang-Hei Lee, Lisa Lee, Stefano Saliceti, Vincent Zhuang, Nathan Batchelor, Steven Bohez, Federico Casarini, Jose Enrique Chen, Omar Cortes, Erwin Coumans, Adil Dostmohamed, Gabriel Dulac-Arnold, Alejandro Escontrela, Erik Frey, Roland Hafner, Deepali Jain, Yuheng Kuang, Edward Lee, Linda Luu, Ofir Nachum, Ken Oslund, Jason Powell, Diego Reyes, Francesco Romano, Feresteh Sadeghi, Ron Sloat, Baruch Tabanpour, Daniel Zheng, Michael Neunert, Raia Hadsell, Nicolas Heess, Francesco Nori, Jeff Seto, Carolina Parada, Vikas Sindhwani, Vincent Vanhoucke, and Jie Tan. We’d additionally wish to thank Marissa Giustina, Ben Jyenis, Gus Kouretas, Nubby Lee, James Lubin, Sherry Moore, Thinh Nguyen, Krista Reymann, Satoshi Kataoka, Trish Blazina, and the members of the robotics group at Google DeepMind for his or her contributions to the venture.


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