At MIT, a Robot Cheetah Is Sprinting—And Leaping—Across Campus

MIT’s robot cheetah may not be the only one in Boston—but it can leap

On MIT's campus, a predator is leaping over lawns and sprinting down football fields. Researchers there have designed algorithms that allow a robot cheetah to run untethered. In addition to working out the mathematics of a cheetah's movements, a special high-torque-density electric motor enabled the robot, which researchers have been working on for years, to finally stand on its own four legs. 

As LiveScience reports, the robot can so far run up to ten miles an hour—although with enough tinkering, the researchers predict, it could soon reach 30 miles per hour. The robot cheetah can also clear foot-tall obstacles, LiveScience reports. It is also very quiet compared to most robots. 

The machine was not always so graceful, as a video of the cheetah's first run attests: 

As LiveScience explains, the crucial step to freeing the robot from the lab was working out the mathematics of force. Each leg interacts with the ground with just enough force to optimize for pushing against the ground and covering the maximum amount of distance with each lunge—just like a real cheetah. 

The MIT researchers actually aren't the only robotics team to turn to cheetahs for bio-inspiration. Another DARPA-funded project, from Boston Dynamics, developed a cheetah robot that in 2012 ran more than 28 miles per hour on a treadmill—the fastest robot built so far. (It's pretty noisy, though). In 2013, the same company's updated, untethered WildCat robot reached 16 miles per hour. It looks a bit more like a hyena or wild boar than a feline, though. Check it out here: