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MIT-Cheetah-05-640x366Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab and Boston Dynamics have something in common: both have been working on self-contained four legged robots based on a cheetah.   MIT’s robot, also DARPA-funded, had been reaching speeds up to 29 miles per hour on a treadmill, connected to a tether. However, with most of its propulsion and control systems being powered via hydraulic and electrical wiring harnesses, it didn’t have to carry a lot of its own weight. The self-contained version is slower, but it’s now completely self contained and roaming around campus. Not as fast as its tethered counterpart, Cheetah is still able to turn in some impressive speed numbers for an untethered legged robot. In this video, you can see the new robot being put through its paces at a healthy 10 mph over grass. On its treadmill, it leaps over obstacles of various sizes autonomously, and in slow motion it looks eerily organic.

Boston Dynamics’ robot, named Wildcat, uses two-stroke gasoline engines that make it sound like a very large, very angry swarm of bees.  MIT’s Cheetah, in contrast, uses high-torque custom-designed electrical motors instead.  It can run nearly silent, and rather than moving its limbs faster to produce greater speeds, simply increases the power in each push of its legs. It spends more time in the air while galloping doing this – but it essentially uses a sort of two-stroke gait.  MIT is working on perfecting a new alternating gait for Cheetah where each leg hits the ground one at a time instead of in pairs.  They hope that this will let them make possible top speeds of up to 30 miles per hour  for the already very fast, very scary,  metal quadruped.

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