Robotics

MIT lets its robotic cheetah off the leash

MIT lets its robotic cheetah o...
Researchers at MIT have created an untethered, electrically powered robotic cheetah
Researchers at MIT have created an untethered, electrically powered robotic cheetah
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Researchers at MIT have created an untethered, electrically powered robotic cheetah
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Researchers at MIT have created an untethered, electrically powered robotic cheetah
The MIT robotic cheetah can run at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) and can jump over obstacles that are 33 cm (13 in) high
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The MIT robotic cheetah can run at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) and can jump over obstacles that are 33 cm (13 in) high

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have announced the latest developments in their robotic cheetah project. The project aims to provide insights into how cheetahs can move so quickly. The cheetah is now "wireless" and is electrically powered.

MIT has been working on the robotic cheetah for a number of years and isn't the only place to be doing so. In 2012, a DARPA-funded Boston Dynamics project broke the land speed record for a robot with legs – a record had previously set in 1989 by MIT's Planar Biped.

Associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT Sangbae Kim explains that team's work is focused on understanding the movement of animals and, in particular, four-legged animals.

"We try to understand how they efficiently run in the field and nature so that we can take that inspiration and then use it in our engineering world," says Kim. "So, for example, we can create prosthetic legs from that technology or we can even make new transportation replacing cars so that you don't need the road in our world."

The MIT robotic cheetah can run at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) and can jump over obstacles that are 33 cm (13 in) high
The MIT robotic cheetah can run at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) and can jump over obstacles that are 33 cm (13 in) high

Currently, the robotic cheetah can run at up to 10 mph (16 km/h) and can jump over obstacles that are 33 cm (13 in) high. A previous version of the cheetah reached a speed of 22 km/h (14 mph), but it was tethered so that it could be powered externally. The newer version is powered independently via an electric motor.

To achieve this, the team had to develop all of the the components for the robot itself. These included motors, the control system and the control algorithms.

Kim points out that most leg-standing robots are powered by internal combustion engines with hydraulic transmissions, which are noisy and inefficient. "People believe that internal combustion engines and hydraulics are the only way to make a legged robot run and support itself," he says. "People believe that electric motors are not powerful enough. This is the first time we show that an electrically powered robot can run and jump over foot-high obstacles."

The video below shows the robotic cheetah in action.

Source: MIT

MIT Robotic Cheetah

12 comments
BigGoofyGuy
I wonder if it will chase after robotic gazelle? :)
I think that is cool. Perhaps it could be used in search and rescue?
Nicholas Jankowski
somewhere I must have missed the part where it says how the Cheetah is powered. no, it is not powered by an electric motor. How did it get electricity? I'm assuming they loaded a battery onboard to power the motor? I 6km/hr speed drop would seem to indicate that this was a significant performance penalty, between weight and balance issues. Would be interesting to know how long the power source can last at speed. did they do any work to improve efficiency?
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
Imagine you are an escaped inmate who's hiding out in the woods. Suddenly, a futuristic robotic cheetah with IR vision pounces on you with the speed of a bolt and incapacitates you with a tazer.
Daishi
I see legged robots as a bit of a rube goldberg experiment. An impressive piece of engineering but not a very efficient, cost effective, of low maintenance way to solve any problem in particular.
After several decades of work, one of the most respected universities in the world using half a million dollars in parts made something that can move 14 mph from one section of grass to another section of grass but it has to be tethered to a power source to do it.
Legs are simply the wrong solution to the problem of transportation.
Using biology as a template for robots doesn't really make much sense outside of prosthetics. It would be like building computers to do math by working out the solution on a chalkboard.
Dave Lorde
Nice piece of engineering, but a little surprising to see that it lacks the flexible spine of the Boston Dynamics cheetah robot, which allows much more natural and much faster movement.
GiolliJoker
Just my thoughts: -the whole idea of mimicking nature is great, although I think it's worth noticing that the "secret" of the cheetah's speed is in its extremely flexible spine, and this robot is extremely rigid... I hope in the future this will be addressed; -the jumping feature and the anatomically correct legs are amazing, but compared to the Boston Dynamics robot this one looks slow and clumsy... the BD one was borderline scary, this feels a bit funny; -BD was using a 2-stroke engine for its prototype and I think it should still be the way to go, not because of more power but because 2-stroke engines are small and much lighter than a pack of batteries - without those bulky batteries maybe there would be the chance to have a flexible lower spine, while keeping the engine and rigid parts in the "ribcage"; -I might be wrong but the fur pattern on the sticker on the "head" (from the "on-board" camera) of the robot is the one of the leopard, not the cheetah.
Baden
Speaking as one who has been chased by beings both four legged (wild cattle) and four wheeled (wild friends), robotic dogs look scary :(
Cyndysub
Just wait and see what will become possible when the next big breakthrough on batteries is achieved.
the.other.will
There's a need for transportation other than in places other than cities. Vehicles with legs will be able to traverse ground that is too rough for tracked vehicles. Those vehicles may, depending on the application, have a driver, be remote controlled, or be an autonomous robot. Like many other new technologies, the 1st users will probably be military, but there will be more as costs go down & reliability goes up. That said, calling a vehicle that's limited to 16 or even 22 kph a cheetah is just wrong.
ezeflyer
Robotics are advancing at cheetah speeds. Great bit of engineering.