MIT scientists are taking a page out of biology’s playbook in their attempt to create a robot cheetah. While nowhere near as fast as the real thing, their biomimetic approach has certainly resulted in one of the more realistic legged robots around.
Biomimetics is a type of engineering that attempts to imitate biological systems. For their robot cheetah, the MIT Biomimetics Robotics Lab designed high-density torque motors that are basically bionic hips and shoulders to power the robo-cat’s strides, a “biotensegrity” system inspired by the musculoskeletal architecture of the real animal, and “swing leg retraction” that mimics the natural motions of animals in which the front legs rotate backwards just before touching down. The product is a robot that walks and trots a lot like the real thing, much more so than the stilted stomping of Alpha Dog.
Probably the robot cheetah’s biggest plus is its high energy efficiency, the reward of using a design resulting from millions of years of evolution for inspiration. It can trot at 5 miles per hour for up to 90 minutes. As for its top speed, however, it’s got a ways to go before it gets anywhere close to the speed of real cheetahs which can leg it out at 70 to 75 mph. It’s not even close to Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah which can reach an impressive 29 mph. Although, for style points, MIT’s cheetah, with their biomimetic approach, wins hands down.
[Source: Biomimetics MIT via YouTube]