MIT’s Robo-Cheetah Gets An Upgrade

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Speed and agility are the characteristics of a cheetah. As it fires up to top speed, a cheetah pumps its legs, bounding until it reaches a full gallop.  Now, MIT researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a robotic cheetah.  The details of this new robot will be presented at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Chicago later this month.

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MIT’s robo-cheetah has gotten some serious upgrades.  It has come a long way since its first treadmill test.  In experiments on an indoor track, the robot sprinted up to 10 mph.  The research team estimates that the robot may eventually reach speeds of up to 30mph.  The team recently took the sleek, four-legged heap of gears, batteries, and electric motors for a test run on MIT’s Killian Court, where it bounded across the grass at a steady clip.  MIT’s cheetah is showing its new skills due to its construction using custom-made electric motors.

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The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot’s legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed.  The faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward.  This technology can also be applied to world class sprinters.  They increase their stride length by pushing downward harder and increasing their ground force, so they can run faster while keeping the same frequency, says Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT.

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The difference between most robots and the robo-cheetah is that other robots are heavy and sluggish so they can’t control high-speed situations, on the other hand the cheetahbot designed by the MIT team runs with a hefty impact on the ground which makes it more stable, agile, and dynamic.

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As an animal bounds, its legs touch the ground for a fraction of a second before cycling through the air again.   The new tricks the mechanical cheetah has learned has put everyone in awe.  The robo-cheetah is helping researchers gain a greater understanding of animal locomotion and how it can help robots move  efficiently.  Future applications for the technology could appear in new transportation devices or in prosthetics designed for humans.





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