Robotics
A Robot That Runs Like A Cat

Increasing interest in quadrupeds over the past few years has led to the development of various Quadruped Robots paving way for new projects based on cheetahs or four legged animals. Scientists get inspired from the nature and create various artificial machines imitating real creatures. Studying and using the principles of the animal kingdom to develop new solutions for the use in the field of robotics has become an essence in bio-robotic development.

Cheetah-cub developed by the researchers at the Biorobotics lab at the EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, is one such latest creation. EPFL group has put this cheetah-cub in motion with the help of researchers from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), who have transferred horse-like locomotion to the robot.

Cheetah-cub quadruped weighs about 1.1 kg (2.4 lb) and is exactly the size of a house-cat. It is powered by Kondo KRS2350 hobby servos and seeks to enhance biological richness of robotic motor skills. This feline morphology reproducing robot has same advantages as its biological creatures; it is small, light and equally fast.

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The prototype robot without head, is described in an article appeared in the International Journal of Robotics Research. With a special design of its legs, this robot happens to be the fastest of all quadruped robots below 30kgs. It has an ability to run about seven times its body length in just one second. This speed is unmatchable and surpasses all the small quadruped robots developed so far.

It possesses brilliant auto-stabilization characteristics which empowers the robot to adjust itself avoiding disturbances such as small steps while running. Though it is not as agile as real cat, it is extremely light, compact and robust that can be assembled from materials which are of low cost.

The main attribute and strength of the robot is the design of its legs, which are built based on a careful observation of an original feline. The number of segments and their proportions are same as they are on a real cat. Tendons are reproduced by using springs and small motors that convert energy into movement called actuators are utilized to imitate muscles.

Allowing the robot to speed up or slow down smoothly, the scientists have developed transitions between a walk and jog. Due to its rigid trunk, mimicking the original walk of a cat accurately was not possible making the robot slip during the gallop gait. However, this issue can be resolved soon as a flexible trunk for the robot is in making.

“This morphology gives the robot the mechanical properties from which cats benefit, that’s to say a marked running ability and elasticity in the right spots, to ensure stability. The robot is thus naturally more autonomous,” explains Alexander Sprowitz, a Biorob scientist.

The robot is still in its experimental stage and the goal behind cheetah-cub robot is to develop a fast, agile, and ground wandering machines for use in various fields. For example, it can be used for search and rescue operations at the time of natural disasters etc.

Thus, the main purpose of the robot is to motivate research in biomechanics and locomotion.

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