It looks like quadruped robots are going to run rampant in the near future. Boston Dynamics, the company responsible for this astonishing biped, released its first real commercial for its dog-like bot, Spot, back in September, and now we have new footage of MIT’s “mini cheetah robots” in a group of nine strong. Watch as the mini robot cheetahs backflip, run, and perform synchronized drills for a glimpse of a world that’ll probably soon be crawling with these things.
MIT News also notes that these mini cheetahs are “the first four-legged robot[s] to do a backflip,” although to be fair, most people are probably familiar with those little toy robot dogs that are able to perform the acrobatic feat as well. Obviously these robots are far more advanced and capable than the toy dogs though, so perhaps these are the first “real robot” quadrupeds to be able to backflip. That subjective distinction, it seems, is up for debate.
That question of precedence aside, the members of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering have highlighted these mini cheetahs as being a significant evolutionary step for quadruped robots because of how robust and modular they are. Benjamin Katz, a technical associate from MIT who’s a member of the project’s development team, told MIT News, “You could put these parts together, almost like Legos.” He also added that they don’t break easily. However, if they do, they’re cheap and easy to fix thanks, in part, to the fact that the legs are all separately motorized and interchangeable.
It’s unclear what range of tasks these min cheetahs will take on in the future. If they’re deployed in the same way as Spot, they’ll probably be helping with monitoring construction sites, providing services as remote inspectors of dangerous environments (such as oil and power installations), and even for security purposes. For right now, however, Katz and the other members of the project are hoping to have some kind of “robotic dog race” through an obstacle course in order to test the efficacy of different control algorithms. A prospect that seems entertaining, and perhaps even a precursor test for package-delivery capabilities.
What do you think of this coalition of mini robot cheetahs? Do you think they’ll be everywhere in just a few years time? Or do you think their capabilities are too limited to ever be truly useful? Run your opinions by us in the comments!