Research scientists at Google recently unveiled a benchmark dedicated to quadruped robots. Called “Barkour,” it is meant to quantify the “animal-level agility” of the robots, which are becoming increasingly common in the tech world.

It is no secret that big companies and tech firms are performing their own tests involving quadruped robots. Some include Boston Dynamics, Xiaomi, and Kawasaki. The work of the former was even tried by Hyundai to inspect the safety inside its factories remotely. However, despite the growing attention to developing quadrupeds, no specialized benchmarks exist for such kinds of robots. As such, Google introduced the Barkour agility benchmark for quadruped robots.

The benchmark is said to be inspired by dog agility competitions, which is why the team set up a series of obstacles that the robots have to accomplish within a limited timeframe. It also implements penalties when the robots skip or fail the challenges or when they move slowly. 

“By providing a diverse and challenging obstacle course, the Barkour benchmark encourages researchers to develop locomotion controllers that move fast in a controllable and versatile way,” the scientists wrote. “Furthermore, by tying the performance metric to real dog performance, we provide an intuitive metric to understand the robot performance with respect to their animal counterparts.”

The team admits that the benchmark setup is “denser and smaller than a typical dog competition.” Yet, it stressed that it allows easy deployment in a robotics lab and that the setup is customizable. Moreover, the team noted that it developed a system within the benchmark that will minimize human intervention in case of the robot fails to pass the obstacle (e.g., falling or stumbling), allowing them to measure the robustness of the creations more reliably. 

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