What’s scarier than a cheetah, one of nature’s most awesome big cats? A robot cheetah, of course. What’s scarier than a robot cheetah? A backflipping robot cheetah, created by the evidently fiendishly brilliant robotics geniuses over at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Clearly taking their cue from the example set by nearby Boston Dynamics’ backflipping Atlas robot, MIT researchers have developed a “Mini Cheetah” robot that’s capable of pulling off some dazzling athletic maneuvers. While its 20-pound weight makes it somewhat more diminutive than the 100-plus pound real animal it’s based on, MIT’s robocat nonetheless impresses. According to its creators, it’s able to trot over uneven terrain at speeds around twice as fast as an average person’s walking speed. In addition to its big backflipping party piece, it can also scoot sideways and backward, rotate its body while moving, hop around, roll its shoulders, and even prance about in leaves like a cute little over-excited puppy.
However, one of its most impressive features also looks the meanest when shown off in MIT’s demo reel. While the cheetah-bot can cope handily with being kicked and pushed, when it does get knocked over it’s capable of climbing easily back to its feet. That’s a crucial skill if a robot like this was to be used in a real-world scenario such as carrying out inspection tasks, surveillance, or rescue missions.
This isn’t the only cheetah robot that MIT has developed. As its name hints, Mini Cheetah has a larger sibling. As shown off last year, MIT’s Cheetah 3 robot can leap and gallop across rough terrain, climb up staircases littered with debris, leap terrifyingly onto desks, and neatly recover its balance when it’s yanked or shoved. For power, it crunches on human biomatter which it … no, we’re just kidding about that bit! We don’t want to give its creators any undue ideas.
There’s no word on whether MIT plans to commercialize Mini Cheetah, although there are other four-legged robots on the market (or soon to be on the market) if you’re interested. We’re totally saving up our money just in case an MIT spinoff decides this would be a lucrative venture, though.