Tuesday, 6 March 2012

You can run, but you definitely won’t get away. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has released a video showing a cheetah-like robot that can reach running speeds of up to 18 miles per hour.
This not only beats, but actually smashes, the long-held land speed record for a legged robot of 13.1 mph, which was set way back in 1989.
Check out the video of the cheetah robot in action here:
Animal-like design
To achieve the record-breaking speed, the robot’s movements were patterned after those seen in fast-running animals. Particular attention was paid to the cheetah, and how the animal flexed / unflexed its back with every step to maximize its speed.
By adding this behavior to the four-legged robot, researchers were able to increase the machine’s stride which, in turn, increased its speed. Re-watch the slow-motion part of the video above (:38-:45) to see the bot’s flexing in action.
In terms of power and balance, the machine is motorized by an off-board hydraulic pump, and uses a boomlike device to keep it centered on the treadmill.
Mobility and manipulation issues
DARPA has long been invested in the research and development of ground robots that can assist soldiers in field missions. One of the problems that the agency always seems to come across with building new robots, though, is limitations in a robot’s mobility and manipulation.
To address this, the program “Maximum Mobility and Manipulation” (M3) was created to fund the creation and demonstration of scientific / engineering advances in these particular areas of concern.
More specifically, M3 focuses on four areas of research and development: tool design, improvement of production methods and processes, improvement in control of robot mobility and manipulation, and prototype demonstration.
The cheetah robot is the latest success to come from this program.
The ultimate goal for the cheetah robot is to have it be able to zigzag while running, so that it’s effective in both chase and escape situations, as well as to demonstrate the ability to come to an abrupt halt.
At the moment, though, the record-breaking bot is still treadmill-based. DARPA hopes to have a free-range prototype ready for testing later in the year.


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