MIT’s Cheetah Bot Can Sprint, Leap Under Battery Power

Recently, we’ve seen robots being developed that are used for security, delivering food, and even for customer service. This time around, researchers at the Biomimetic Robotics Lab of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a robot that takes its cues from the world’s fastest land animal that will hopefully be able to replace humans in dangerous operations.

Called the cheetah, this robot’s form and function takes its cues from the land animal of the same name. While it can’t match the animal’s speed of 59 mph right now, the bot is capable of running at speeds of more than 10 mph, jump to a height of around 16 inches, land safely, and still continue to gallop for at least 15 minutes on batteries alone. What is impressive is that the power required for it is less than what a microwave oven would need.

MIT Cheetah bot
Image Credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

In order to build the robot, MIT researchers had to design key elements from beginning to end due to the limits of existing technology. The new key elements included lightweight motors and an algorithm that would determine the amount of force needed for a leg to exert during a split second spent on the ground while running. The cheetah features an onboard computer that organizes data from various sensors and then sends commands to each motor.

"This is kind of a Ferrari in the robotics world, like, we have to put all the expensive components and make it really that instinctive," said MIT professor Sangbae Kim, who leads the that leads the Biomimetic Robotics lab. "That's the only way to get that speed."

The cheetah weighs around 70 pounds and took the team about five years of testing and tweaking to get the prototype to where it is now. An interesting thing to note is that, aside from newly developed tech to create it, the research team also made use of an Xbox controller for maneuvering the robot.

Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the research team is hoping that its robot will be able to assist in search and rescue operations in hazardous or hostile environments and negate the need to send a human rescuer.