Scientists build robot that runs, call it "cheetah"
It's a robot unlike any other. It's inspired by the world's fastest land animal. It's controlled by video game technology. And it packs nifty sensors.
The robot is called the cheetah. It can run on batteries at speeds of more than 10 mph. It can jump about 16 inches high, land safely and continue galloping for at least 15 minutes. And it does it all while using less power than a microwave oven.
It's the creation of researchers at the Massachusetts of Technology.
"This is kind of a Ferrari in the robotics world," said MIT professor Sangbae Kim, who leads the school's Biomimetic Robotics Lab that designed the robot. "That's the only way to get that speed."
The prototype could have real-world applications. Those include the design of revolutionary artificial limbs amd all-terrain wheelchairs. Even vehicles that can travel in rough terrain much like animals do, Kim said. There are hopes the robot will be able to be used in search and rescue operations.
Sensors inside the robot measure the angle of the leg. That information is sent to an onboard computer.
The project is funded by the U.S. military.
Crafting the cheetah robot took five years. There was designing, testing and tweaking. It also took plenty of confidence to ignore critics. They said electric motors aren't strong enough to propel a running mechanical cheetah powered by batteries.
During test runs, the robot broke dozens of legs. But strong, lightweight components made running possible. They include a carbon fiber-and-foam sandwich frame. It can absorb the forces generated by running and jumping.
Some off-the-shelf components came in handy. An Xbox controller is used to maneuver the robot. And wireless Internet communications send commands to the mechanical cheetah.
"In the next 10 years, our goal is we are trying to make this robot to save a life," Kim said.