We’ve reported before on the robotic cheetah developed by MIT’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab, and the team just unleashed it from the lab treadmill and let it run around campus. The team demonstrated that their cheetah-bot can run outdoors at up to 10 mph and jump obstacles around 16 inches high without missing a beat. While the robot’s speed is a little short of the real-life cheetah’s 60 mph, the team believes the current design could achieve speeds of up to 30 mph, thanks to its unique bounding algorithm that mimics the motion of the real thing. Hit the jump to find out how MIT researchers hope to put their robotic cheetah to good use.
MIT’s robot is described by the institute as a “sleek, four-legged assemblage of gears, batteries, and electric motors that weighs about as much as its feline counterpart.” The bounding algorithm programs each of the robot’s legs to exert a specified amount of force when it hits the ground running. This allows the robot to maintain a given speed, and the team liken the technique to that of elite sprinters such as Usain Bolt. More force must be applied in order to propel the robot faster, and the force-based approach also allows the robot to handle uneven terrain.
Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, points out, “Most robots are sluggish and heavy, and thus they cannot control force in high-speed situations. That’s what makes the MIT cheetah so special: You can actually control the force profile for a very short period of time, followed by a hefty impact with the ground, which makes it more stable, agile, and dynamic.”
The MIT cheetah-bot is also battery powered. It currently gets about 15 minutes’ run time out of one charge. Similar four-legged machines run on gas to get enough power, and as Kim says, “As a result, they’re way louder. Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground. This is kind of a new paradigm where we’re controlling force in a highly dynamic situation. Any legged robot should be able to do this in the future.” The team anticipate real-world applications for similar quadruped robots to include prosthetics and wearable technology, all-terrain wheelchairs and vehicles that can travel efficiently over rough ground or in dangerous areas, such as for search and rescue missions.
Photos by MIT