MIT's latest robot cheetah can jump higher than you

MIT's Biomimetics Robotics Lab has created a new version of its robotic cheetah. The Cheetah 2 is capable of even more animal-like actions than DARPA's faster and simpler predecessor. The Cheetah 2 can reliably identify and jump over objects up to 40 cm (about 15 inches) high. When it jumps, it mimics the movements of an actual cheetah, creating a double arc as its fore and high legs clear the hurdle.

To make the robotic quadruped jump successfully, the bioengineering team had to create a three different real-time algorithms. The first involves the evolved robot's newly equipped front-facing laser sensor, allowing it to detect obstacles in real-time.

Based on data from the laser sensor, Cheetah 2 estimates the distance and height of obstacles in its path. Then, it adjusts its gait, by elongating or shortening its stride, to align itself for a successful jump. Finally, a quick-activating algorithm selects the leg thrusts needed to clear the obstacle.

Previous MIT designs successfully reduced stress on joints and preserved momentum by using Kevlar tendons which mimic genuine tendons, allowing the joints to spring back into a neutral position without additional energy input.

Because the MIT Cheetah is funded by DARPA, we can expect the technology to eventually work its way into military applications. The robot is surprisingly agile and seems to be steady on its feet (as seen in the multiple jumps taken on an open track without a safety harness). We may see armies of robotic cheetahs carrying supplies across the battle lines, but it's more likely that different aspects of the technology, like the Kevlar tendons, will be incorporated into existing military robots.

Source: Popular Science