Legged robots are appearing everywhere inspired by dogs, big cats and even people – now there's one that takes after house cats.
At the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland, roboticists built a "cheetah cub robot" that cover five feet in a second - about the speed of an ordinary cat. They were inspired to built such a robot because felines have great balance and agility, a trait that could give a robot excellent skills covering unfamiliar terrain. The idea is to develop fast, agile machines for use in exploration, search and rescue in natural disasters or even to get into spaces that wheeled robots and humans can't.
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Cats get their balance and agility from strong tendons and muscles relative to their weight. So the EPFL team used springs to simulate the tendons and powerful motors for muscles.
One of the things the robot can do is walk and run over rough terrain without falling over, whereas wheeled robots have a tougher time with it. Another feature is that it is robust - it is tough enough to survive a typical house without falling down and damaging itself.
The prototype robot, is described in the International Journal of Robotics Research.