Tech by VICE

MIT's Robot Cheetah Can Hurdle Obstacles Now

The joys and trials of replicating the fastest land animal.

by Becky Ferreira
May 28 2015, 10:07pm

MIT’s robot cheetah in action. Credit: MIT

Cheetahs are among the most badass cats, which is no small honor. Not only are they the fastest land animals in the world, they are also endowed with incredible agility and quick reflexes.

Naturally, this combination of traits is too much for roboticists to resist, and since 2009, teams based out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have been working on creating a mechanical riff on a cheetah. The team's latest video showcases the robo-cheetah's complex hurdle-jumping abilities and adorably stilted gait. FYI, the slow motion money shots start at 1:17.

"Most robots are sluggish and heavy, and thus they cannot control force in high-speed situations," said Sangbae Kim, director of MIT's Biomimetics Lab, in a statement. "That's what makes the MIT cheetah so special: You can actually control the force profile for a very short period of time, followed by a hefty impact with the ground, which makes it more stable, agile, and dynamic."

The robot's hurdling dexterity is impressive, but Kim and colleagues still have a long way to go before they approach genuine cheetah verisimilitude. Eventually, the team hopes to build a model capable of galloping at 30 miles per hour, about half as fast as a real cheetah.

But alas, no matter how sophisticated the robot becomes in the coming years, it's unlikely that it will ever pull off the unique swagger of the animal that inspired it. On that note, enjoy this amazing video of a real cheetah jumping onto a tourist's Jeep for the express purpose of pooping right into the sunroof. Let's see you try to replicate that sweet move, MIT.

Cheetah poops through sunroof like a boss. Credit: Videos of the Wild