MABEL, 6.8 mph
With a peak speed of 6.8 mph, MABEL is thought to be the world's fastest bipedal robot with knees. Like a human, it has a heavier torso with light, flexible legs equipped with springs. And as a result, it has a MABEL's remarkably human-like gait.
"MABEL has large springs for energy storage," said Jessy Grizzle, Jerry and Carol Levin Professor of Engineering at the University of Michigan. "They act like tendons in the human body, absorbing energy at leg impact and releasing energy when the robot is launching itself into the flight phase of running."
MABEL was built in 2008 in collaboration with Jonathan Hurst, who then was a doctoral student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. In the meantime, Grizzle and a variety of doctoral students from University of Michigan's Control Systems Lab have spent the last 4 years tweaking feedback algorithms to keep MABEL balanced while navigating its environment.
"MABEL is a scientific test-bed for studying highly agile walking and running motions," said Grizzle. "So, speed was definitely one of our goals."
Like a human runner, MABEL stays in the air for 40 percent of each stride, giving it the kind of gait suitable for speed. But not just speed for speed's sake.
"We're really concerned with creating a rescue robot -- something that can go in a scenario where humans are working in a factory or living in a home, etc., and there's been a dangerous situation," Grizzle said.
"There's a reason fireman don't show up on horses when they go into a home or factory because quadrupeds can't maneuver well in environments designed for upright walkers."
MABEL was also funded by DARPA, along with the National Science Foundation. Grizzle and Hurst, now an assistant professor at Oregon State, are currently working on a robot that, unlike MABEL, will be untethered.
"The new robot will be a free walker, able to go indoors and outdoors," Grizzle said. "The new robot, ATRIAS, won't have any such support at all. The hips can move sideways as well as forwards and backwards."
Simulation's of ATRIAS calculate the robot will be able to run 11.2 mph. Testing is currently underway, so get your radar guns ready and stay tuned to see is ATRIAS sprints up the leader board.