Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have revealed their latest technological achievement: a cheetah-like quadrupedal robot that can pull off a successful backflip, something that not even all humans can do.
The robot, which weighs roughly 20 pounds, is called Mini Cheetah. Aside from doing backflips, it can also walk on uneven terrain at double the speed of humans and even walk upside down.
Mini Cheetah has a total of 12 electric motors, three in each leg, allowing it to ‘bend and swing’ its four legs. The motors also allow the robot to change direction at will and make “high-force impacts” without damage. In a video released by MIT, Mini Cheetah can even recover from an unexpected force like a kick to its side.
This ability to have a wide range of motion was specifically kept in mind during the development of this robot. Benjamin Katz, a technical associate who helped with the robot’s design at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, explained in an email to the Washington Post, “Legged robots will have a variety of uses where human or animal-like mobility is necessary (climbing over stairs, rocks, etc.) but it may be unsafe to send a person: search and rescue, inspection, surveillance and so on.”
Katz also says that the Mini Cheetah’s ability to backflip isn’t really necessary, though it does help researchers “gauge the machine’s capabilities.”
“It’s also a good stress-test of the hardware,” Katz explains further. “It involves very high torque, power, and acceleration capability, and has a high-speed impact at the end, all of which are very harsh on the robot’s mechanical components.”