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MIT unleashes cheetah robot on campus
Cheeta-bot
The MIT cheetah-bot in Killian Court. - photo by Courtesy of Jose-Luis Olivares/

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Previously limited to sprinting on a treadmill, an untethered cheetah robot can be seen bounding across the MIT campus in a new video.

The mechanical cheetah only runs up to 10 mph, compared to 60 mph for the flesh and blood version of the cat, but researchers have engineered the robot so it mimics a real cheetah’s movement and can leap over hurdles. The video displaying the advancements was released by the school Monday.

“Most robots are sluggish and heavy, and thus they cannot control force in high-speed situations,” associate professor Sangbae Kim said in a statement. “That’s what makes the MIT cheetah so special: You can actually control the force profile for a very short period of time, followed by a hefty impact with the ground, which makes it more stable, agile and dynamic.”

The robot’s ability to keep running after jumping over obstacles is attributed to a bounding algorithm programmed into its legs.

“Many sprinters, like Usain Bolt, don’t cycle their legs really fast,” Kim said. “They actually increase their stride length by pushing downward harder and increasing their ground force, so they can fly more while keeping the same frequency.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is backing the project.