Wired – MIT and the Florida Institute of Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC) are in year one of a four-year research contract. They are showing off stunning results that are expected to produce the fastest, most agile robot ever. He’s called FastRunner, and he’ll zip along at 10 times the speed of a standard mobile robot, which clocks a mere 3 miles per hour.
The team has developed a simulation of FastRunner’s eventual capabilities and a full test leg that can zip along at 27 miles an hour — the same pace as Usain Bolt’s record-setting 2009 sprint. Eventually, they hope to see the ‘bot hit speeds in excess of “30, 40, 50 miles an hour,” according to Dr. Russ Tedrake at MIT.
“This doesn’t just mean one fast robot. It means we’ve developed the architecture for all sorts of robots, humanoid robots for example, to maneuver and show off impressive agility at high speeds.”
In the future, that architecture could be applied to any ‘bot body. The team’s leg design relies on a locking knee, a single motor per leg (which reduces the weight of each leg and maximizes efficiency) and springs that can store energy and then release it to allow the robot to sustain a powerful pace. All of those elements, they say, can be applied to four-legged or humanoid robots. Not to mention that the ‘bot’s design allows it to clamber over obstacles, race up a flight of stairs or scurry up and down hills, while carrying as hefty a load of gear as its legs will support without using much battery power — meaning missions and payloads can be expanded to be useful in real-life situations.
FastRunner will be a fast, efficient, and dynamic bipedal platform capable of traversing moderately rough terrain as fast as the best human sprinters. FastRunner will incorporate a novel leg design, which we have already demonstrated with several prototypes developed at IHMC. This leg design will enable FastRunner to achieve unprecedented efficiency and speed while being self-stabilizing