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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ground Drone: MIT's Quadruped Robot Travels up to 10 MPH and Jumps

As reported by The Verge: Did you run this morning? Maybe you'll go for a jog after work. If you're looking to improve your speeds, you should imagine a robotic cheetah bearing down upon you. It's not as far fetched as it may seem. After several years of work, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced today that their prototype robotic cheetah can now run free under its own power, without cables or wires attached. Ostensibly designed with futuristic search-and-rescue missions in mind and funded by the military (DARPA, of course), the robot cheetah has been updated with a new "bounding" algorithm that precisely controls the amount of force each foot exerts when it hits the ground. The cheetah recently took a test run through a field on campus, achieving speeds up to 10 miles per hour and controlled jumps over obstacles taller than a foot high (30 centimeters).

Researchers at MIT's Biomimetics Robotics Lab (that is, a lab dedicated to robots that mimic biological organisms) say that the robot will soon be able to reach speeds of up to 30-miles-per-hour, exceeding the record running speeds of the world's fastest human, Usain Bolt (27.79 miles-per-hour). MIT's robot cheetah is not the first animal-inspired robotic quadruped to run free and into the darkest corner of our psyches. We saw even faster speeds a year ago from the WildCat robot from Boston Dynamics (a company that was founded by former MIT researchers and has since been acquired by Google). The fact that there are now several predatory feline-inspired robots on the prowl may be great for science, but they're not doing anything for our sleep cycles.