the latest project to be showcased by the institute for human & machine cognition in florida is a two-legged running robot that can probably outrun you. IHMC claim that the bot can run about 12 miles per hour on a treadmill. to put this into perspective, the fastest marathon to have ever been run was completed at a pace of just under 13 miles per hour. the planar elliptical runner by name, IHMC’s bot has been developed to test the limits of two-legged locomotion in machines. its creators even go as far to suggest that the if the bot were the size of a human, it could reach speeds of 20 to 30 miles per hour—reaching speeds greater than usain bolt’s record breaking 27.8mph sprint.

 

IHMC’s planar elliptical runner uses just one motor to drive both its legs, and goes completely without any sensors or computers to help balance itself. instead, the robot’s stability comes from its mechanical design, which helps to keep it steady as it runs. the elliptical motion of its legs in combination with the shape of the bot’s body work together to stop the bot from falling over. the motor is controlled by an an RC car radio controller, determining how much power to apply. by pumping it with more power, the bot will run faster.

 

 

the ostrich-like robot has been filmed calmly jogging on a treadmill, in mid air, and even running behind and alongside a car. it’s worth noting however, that the bot is being supported between two plates of glass, explaining the ‘planar’ part in its title. the glass planes (literally) serve to keep the running robot on the straight and narrow, preventing it from turning or tipping sideways. the bot can still fall over forwards or backwards, although the motion of its leg movement effectively prevents this from happening. 

 

 

the team at IHMC hope that the idea of balancing a bidepidal robot using mechanics can feed into future systems, helping to make two-legged robots more ‘natural-looking.’ the team want to work on applying the same concept to ‘3D running’ allowing the bot to move in other directions. in the long term, IHMC even go as far as to suggest to MIT technology review that legs could replace wheels for certain situations in the future. 

 

 

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