The latest from MIT’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab is a demonstration of the advancements made in the Mini Cheetah. This is not to be mistaken for the non-mini Cheetah as developed by Boston Dynamics. While the Boston Dynamics Cheetah is a relatively large and exceedingly FAST robot, the MIT Mini Cheetah is best known for its backflip! And other super-impressive feats of far more affordable four-legged robot action than what B.D. is doing at the moment.
To learn more about Boston Dynamics Cheetah, have a peek at our guide What is Boston Dynamics? To learn more about the MIT Biomimetic Robotics Lab Mini Cheetah, read on right here! Or go back to the backflip video first, then go ahead below. It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure of learning!
The MIT “Super Mini Cheetah” was in development already over a half-decade ago. This system appeared publicly with the video you see above, and was first built “in the context of Will Bosworth’s PhD research with Professor Sangbae Kim and Professor Neville Hogan,” and funded by the DARPA M3 program. Additional contributors included Debbie Ajilo, Michael Farid, Hans Susilo, Jonas Whitney and Michael Chuah.
The latest version of this tiny baby is just called Mini Cheetah, and it weighs in at around 20 pounds. It can do a 360-degree backflip, and it’s made to pronk! Pronking is the movement you see these robots do most often – aside from walking. It’s kind of like a hop, but… different.
These 9 new Mini Cheetahs were planned back at the beginning of 2019. In March, the team made public their plans to create 10 Mini Cheetah robots to present at the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation. At this conference, MIT was one of five groups to bring a four-legged robot to demo. Also in the mix were ANYbotics’ ANYmal, Ghost Robotics’ GR Vision, Unitree’s Laikago, and Boston Dynamics’ Spot Mini.
Not to be too confusing with the names, but MIT’s Biomimetic Robotics Lab also developed other Cheetah models with names like Cheetah 2 and Cheetah 3. You’ll mostly be hearing about Mini Cheetah in the press. It’s the most versatile and usable – designed with modularity in mind. UPDATE: There’s also an MIT Junior Cheetah!
FUN FACT: This recording took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at Killian Court. This court was originally called the “Great Court” and was formally named after Dr. James Killian, MIT’s 10th president, back in the year 1974.
According to Technology Review, Dr. Killian’s memoir The Education of a College President includes text from his acceptance speech at the naming of the courtyard on June 3, 1974. “No accolade which has come to me in my lifetime has moved me as deeply as this action by the MIT Corporation,” said Dr. Killian. “I simply do not know how to respond to a resolution so magnanimous, so felicitously phrased, and so heartwarming in spirit.” Little did he know that this same courtyard would one day play host to a pack of robot babies on the prowl!