MIT researchers have created an algorithm which mimics the movements of the big cat and programmed it into a robotic cheetah made of gears, batteries and electric motors with four legs.
The robot cheetah can bound across grass and leap over obstacles moving just like the wild animal, although it’s not quite as fast as a real cheetah- yet.
At the moment it can sprint 10 mph and researchers say the current version of the robot could reach speeds of up to 30 mph- about half that of a cheetah but still faster than the fastest ever human sprinter.
Watch the cheetah robot run.
The algorithm works by telling the robot’s legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split-second it hits the ground which maintains speed. The more force applied the faster the robot’s speed.
The algorithm can also be changed to a different stride, for example bounding like a rabbit or galloping like a horse.
The principle is one that associate researcher of mechanical engineering Sangbae Kim believes is similar to that used by sprinters. “Many sprinters, like Usain Bolt, don’t cycle their legs really fast. 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.”
The same principle also gets the robot cheetah across rough terrain and makes it more robust than the typical slow moving and often awkward robots.
“Most robots are sluggish and heavy, and thus they cannot control force in high-speed situations. 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,” says Kim.
The work was also supported by the US government agency DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).