The newest version of MIT’s Cheetah is fast, it’s quiet, and it jumps without constraints! It’s come a long way since its first treadmill tests where it was tethered. Now it can run free at about 10 mph in the grass, and hurdle over obstacles up to 13 inches (33 cm) high. It’s very quiet because it is battery-and-motor driven, rather than other bots which use gasoline-powered engines-and-hydraulics. (See how noisy the WildCat robot is.) The MIT Cheetah is a little smaller than a real cheetah, 24 inches tall, 50 inches long, and 70 lb. in weight.
You would think, to make a robot run faster, you just need to make the legs move faster. But another way is to keep the same movement speed, but push down harder at the ground with each step. “Many sprinters, like Usain Bolt, don’t cycle their legs really fast,” MIT’s Sangbae Kim says. “They actually increase their stride length by pushing downward harder and increasing their ground force, so they can fly more.” The Cheetah currently bounds —where the front and rear legs move together — but galloping, where all four legs move differently, is the ultimate goal. With a new gait, and a few other tweaks to the code, MIT hopes that the Cheetah can hit speeds of up to 30 mph — which would make it the fastest untethered quadruped robot in the world. It's now considered the 2nd fastest in the world. (See the fastest – Wildcat – and a smaller newcomer – Outrunner.)
The group’s research is supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the same agency responsible for other high-tech machines that are capable of performing real-life tasks. “Our goal is to use this kind of robot to save lives in a disaster situation. It could be used to help fire fighters or police in a dangerous situation,” Kim said. “One situation that comes to mind is a wildfire. Robots like this could carry water, hose down a fire, and move into areas that would be dangerous for a human.”
Source: MIT’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab
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