Boston Dynamics has given us some astonishing animal-inspired bots like the BigDog and PetMan. Here comes another DARPA-funded animal bot, part of their Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program. This one replicates a cheetah, and it has already broken the speed record for a legged robot with a trot of 18 mph. (Unfortunately, these creations are not being commercialized or used as educational tools to teach how closely related engineering is to nature, but rather, they are projects made for the military. Sad state if the world it seems)
The Boston Dynamics bot is still in its developmental stage. DARPA wants to gain access into the cheetah’s efficient mechanics of locomotion. Attempting to replicate the dynamic contortion of a real cheetah’s back has given the bot the ability to increase its speed by 57% since earlier versions- also using a more powerful driving pump. However it does not balance on itself yet and needs a boom to hold it up as it runs on a treadmill.
An off-board hydraulic pump gives mobility to its legs while the movement and control algorithms can keep the robot synchronized at speeds up to 28 mph. Boston Dynamics is keeping its cards close to the vest, but it seems the frame is made out of some titanium alloy.
A self-balancing version is currently in the works and testing on it will begin later this year to set up an unveiling of the new version by early 2013. They hope to build a version that will hit 50 mph. The new cheetah, to be called the wildcat, will have an onboard pump and will be mobile in natural or degraded terrains like the ones the military is used sneaking through or leaving behind. DARPA says the wildcat will assist in emergency response situations and humanitarian assistance... and other missions.