MIT has a herd of robot Mini Cheetahs and they’re adorable

Last week MIT showed off a herd of its Mini Cheetah robots. The video posted on the MIT Biomimetrics YouTube channel, which shows the herd of Mini Cheetahs performing various tricks and maneuvers, is equal parts fascinating, adorable and creepy.
MIT Mini Cheetahs
MIT showed off its herd of Mini Cheetahs. Photo: MIT via Youtube

Earlier this year, MIT unveiled its Mini Cheetah – a small, four-legged robot which can walk, run and even backflip.

Quadruped walking robots have been around for a while now. The original quadruped on the block was Boston Dynamics’s ‘BigDog’ which was first developed way back in 2005.

BigDog made waves on YouTube when video footage of it in action first went public. Its walking and running abilities immediately struck a chord with viewers imaging the future of robots.

Something about walking, dog-like robots really evokes that ‘uncanny valley’ feeling, and the herd of Mini Cheetahs is definitely no exception.

Boston Dynamics has since developed a much more refined quadruped robot, named Spot, which it has started leasing out to customers.

Legged Squad Support System robot prototype, 2021, DARPA image.
Boston Dynamics has developed a number of walking robots with funding from DARPA. Photo: DARPA/U.S. Department of Defense via Wikimedia Commons

MIT’s Mini Cheetah

While Boston Dynamics laid the foundations for quadruped robots, MIT built upon this groundwork with a smaller, more refined robot.

The Mini Cheetah was revealed earlier this year by the MIT Biomimetrics team, and it was immediately apparent that it represented a step up from the quadruped robots of old.

Among the many talents shown off in the video released back in February was the Mini Cheetah’s ability to walk and run using a variety of different gaits. It can even right itself after falling or being kicked over.

But by far the most impressive talent the Mini Cheetah possesses is its ability to perform backflips. In fact, the Mini Cheetah is the first robot to ever pull off this stunt, and it represents a real step up in terms of walking robot technology.

Part of the reason the Mini Cheetah can pull off such acrobatics is its lightweight body and agile legs. In total the Mini Cheetah weighs just 20 pounds, or a shade over 9 kg. This is just a fraction of the heavyweight BigDog, which weighs in at an impressive 240 pounds.

The Mini Cheetah herd

Last week’s video showing off the Mini Cheetah herd explores the ability of a number of robots working in unison.

The abilities of the Mini Cheetah haven’t really changed since the robot was first revealed earlier this year. However, the footage of them walking, moving and even backflipping in unison conjures up visions of how theys could be utilized in a number of different applications in the future.

A herd of Mini Cheetahs
MIT’s Mini Cheetahs can perform backflips. Photo: MIT via YouTube

The Mini Cheetahs have flexible ‘shoulder’ joints which allow their bodies to rotate and twist side-to-side. Additionally, their legs can extend upwards, allowing the robots to self-right if they fall over or lose their footing.

According to the Mini Cheetah development team at MIT, the robots are designed to be ‘virtually indestructible’, due to their lightweight frames and modular design.

If a leg, motor, or joint is damaged, it can quickly and easily be replaced, making the Mini Cheetah ideal for use in many different work environments.

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