And there appears to be some conflicting reports on whether Cheetah's top speed is So given the uncertainties involved, we're declaring this a tie. At least until we can have our robot race! Researchers have long been interested in fast-running robots with powerful, agile legs. The robot, called Raptor, has two nimble legs and a mechanism that mimics a tail. In a recent experiment, it achieved an impressive speed of 46 kilometers per hour on a treadmill. That's faster than the fastest human, the Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, whose top speed has been estimated at But before you suggest a robot race between the two machines, note that both Raptor and Cheetah are attached to beams that keep them steady and prevent them from running off the treadmill—and crashing through a wall.
And despite their similar speeds, the two robots are very different. Cheetah is a hefty quadruped, powered by hydraulic actuators. Raptor is a compact, 3-kilogram machine, with two legs made of lightweight composite material. Another difference is that Raptor has a tail.
Thanks to its tail, Raptor doesn't trip on them. Using a tail for stability is not a new idea in robotics. Raptor is not the first robot to sport legs with prosthetic blades, either. Still, Raptor stands out for its simplicity, showing that it's possible to achieve significant speeds with an uncomplicated design. Unlike other legged robots that rely on multiple actuators, Raptor uses just one motor per leg, which consists of a nine-bar linkage.
To recover part of the energy used to make the robot move, the researchers added Achilles tendons that work as springs, absorbing and restoring energy with every step. The robot's control system is also simple. Raptor runs a computer program known as a running pattern generator, which controls gait and speed. They're interested not only in achieving ever-greater speeds, but also improving control and stability.
We've seen other legged robots take their first steps on treadmills and then learn to walk outside the lab. One example is HyQ, a quadruped from Italy. We hope the Korean researchers can build a version of Raptor that doesn't need a treadmill and that they can set free outdoors. Sign up for the Automaton newsletter and get biweekly updates about robotics, automation, and AI, all delivered directly to your inbox. And then we can have a robot race. Newsletter Sign Up Sign up for the Automaton newsletter and get biweekly updates about robotics, automation, and AI, all delivered directly to your inbox.More...