Today in Things That Don’t Bode Well for Humanity’s Future, MIT researchers have designed a robot “cheetah” that can rival its real-world counterpart in running efficiency. While most legged robots, such as Boston Dynamic’s “Big Dog,” are weighed down by heavy gasoline engines, hydraulics, or large battery packs, MIT’s “cheetah,” which we will call "Cheetor," uses lightweight electric motors in its shoulders that produce high torque with little wasted energy.
According to assistant professor Sangbae Kim, this advance in energy efficiency will allow robots like Cheetor to be self-sufficient aides in emergency situations. “In order to send a robot to find people or perform emergency tasks, like in the Fukushima disaster, you want it to be autonomous,” says Kim. “One of the reasons why people think it’s impossible to make an electric robot that does this is because efficiencies have been pretty bad.”
In addition to its lightweight frame (just 70 pounds), and high-efficiency motor, Cheetor also uses a kinetic feedback loop to power itself, much like the regenerative braking process in electric cars. As the robot’s legs strike the ground, its electric motors capture the energy and feed it back into the system, further powering Cheetor’s ascent to supremacy.
In other news, global leaders announced today “it’s pretty much time to just pack it in, you guys,” adding, “I mean, have you seen these things? Jeez.”