Quiet, efficient, and powerful: MIT’s robotic cheetah has a “custom-designed, high-torque-density” electric motor, and can run and jump around without being tethered to an external power source.
It’s also looking to earn its name: as researchers refine the robot’s bio-inspired locomotion — which is hinged on a bounding algorithm for each of the robot’s legs — they hope to increase its speed from 10mph (16kph) to 30mph (48kph). From Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT:
“Many sprinters, like Usain Bolt, don’t cycle their legs really fast,” Kim says. They actually increase their stride length by pushing downward harder and increasing their ground force, so they can fly more while keeping the same frequency.”
Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field. In treadmill experiments, the team found that the robot handled slight bumps in its path, maintaining its speed even as it ran over a foam obstacle.
“Most robots are sluggish and heavy, and thus they cannot control force in high-speed situations,” Kim says. “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.”
…And it’s much quieter than Boston Dynamics’ WildCat (shown at 40s): Watch.