September 20, 2014
The latest in robotic design has enabled US researchers to build a four-legged robot, which can run faster than Usain Bolt and jump noiselessly – and all without the need for a plug.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have dubbed the running and jumping robot Cheetah 2. As its name suggests, it can run really fast – up to thirty miles an hour.
The robotic cat’s secret lies in a bounding algorithm developed by MIT’s mechanical and electronic engineers and programmed into its legs. It exerts a certain amount of force when it hits the ground to maintain a given speed.
It is actually a technique used by world-class sprinters.
“Many sprinters, like Usain Bolt, don’t cycle their legs really fast,” said Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. “They actually increase their stride length by pushing downward harder and increasing their ground force, so they can fly more while keeping the same [running] frequency,” Kim told Kurzweilai.net.
The team of researchers announced their creation at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems this week in Chicago.
Experiments showed that the robot was able to run at high speeds without falling on short running cycles. The algorithm enabled precise control over the robot while it was speeding up.
The other novelty about Cheetah 2 is its silence – its only noise is the sound of its metal feet touching the ground. Other quadruped robots are powered by gasoline engines in order to generate high forces and are very noisy.
“This is kind of new paradigm where we’re controlling force in a highly dynamic situation. Any legged robot should be able to do this in the future,” Kim said.
The US military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the program, offering $95 million as a Robotics challenge for entrants to develop projects for disaster response.
The Department of Defense says there is an increasing demand for US troops’ help in relief efforts around the globe. The 2004 Asian tsunami and 2010 earthquake in Haiti are the most recent examples, according to Business Times.
Just this week on Tuesday, President Barack Obama announced he was sending 3,000 troops to West Africa to assist in the Ebola crisis.
MIT’s Kim told Fox News he expects a robot like theirs could be useful for fire departments.
Meanwhile, unplugged moving robots are surfacing from different labs. Professor George M. Whitesides Research Group at Harvard created a ‘soft’ robot using embedded pneumatic networks that enable movement by pressurizing particular channels in the robots limbs.