MIT Draws Inspiration from Cheetah to Develop Robot that Mimics the Way it Dashes and Jumps

December 4, 2014, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Robotics holds an immense share of its inspiration from nature. And this time around, the fastest animal on earth is the source of inspiration.

Researchers at MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab have developed a new speedy robot known as cheetah robot, which runs and gallops the exact way its real-life counterpart does. But thankfully, the power and agility of the man-made cheetah will find use in prosthetics and military field and not in chasing prey.

The cheetah robot gets the name not for its speed or structure, but for its motion that has been inspired from the swift predator. The robotic form, though, may come nowhere close in terms of speed if set out in the open with the real one.

While a real-life cheetah would clock in at 70 mph, the robotic cheetah moves at 10 mph, which the researchers say can reach up to 30 mph with the right design. It could also hop through heights of up to 40 centimeters.

robot cheetah

Robotic cheetah gets its motion with an algorithm that helps it to exert maximum force on its paws when in contact with ground. That remains the key for these robots to cover greater distances with its speedy movements. Sangbae Kim, leader of the team, calls the robot the Ferrari of the robotic world with all its expensive work and parts.

Controlled by sensors, the robotic cheetah sends out measurement details of its leg angle to onboard computer and is maneuvered by means of Xbox controllers, nifty sensors and wireless communications. Three motors are used in these robots to generate the required force on each paw at slow speeds.

Funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the project has undergone various stages of design, testing and re-design to come to its full form. It took five years for the researchers to make it to the final stage, a period during which the robotic cheetah’s legs broke a dozen times.

Robotic cheetahs may find use in saving humanity, prosthetics and in wearable technology in the coming years. A Junior Cheetah is also being designed by the same team and comes as the cheap alternative for the larger one. A similar robot has also been taking shape since a long time at the Boston University, which is also funded by DARPA.

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