Here’s a cat that will do more whirring than purring: a robotic cheetah cub designed to trot at the fastest clip of any legged machine in its class. The mechanical running feline, described in the International Journal of Robotics Research, could help blaze a trail for engineers designing fast and agile rescue robots.
The headless, four-legged robot is about the size of a house cat, and its legs were designed with a typical kitty in mind, said lead author Alexander Sprowitz, a biomechanical roboticist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The 2.2-pound, roughly 8-inch robot has legs made of three segments proportioned similarly to a cat’s, where the top and bottom segments are positioned roughly parallel. The tendons are made of springs and the muscles are made of small motors called actuators.
The researchers chose to look at a cat because it’s a reasonable size – you’d have to make a much bigger treadmill to test an adult robotic tiger, for one thing – and yet it provides insight into the movement of just about any feline, Sprowitz said.
The robot can run up to 1.4 meters per second -- almost seven times the length of its body, but still just a fraction of the speed a typical housecat can achieve.