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Robot mimics the articulation of a running cat

18 June 2013

Thanks to its legs, whose design faithfully reproduces feline morphology, EPFL’s four-legged robot has almost the same advantages as the real thing.

The strengths of this robot reside in the design of its legs. The number of segments – three on each leg – and their proportions are the same as they are on a cat.

Developed by  Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne's (EPFL’s) Biorobotics Laboratory (Biorob), the cheetah-cub robot provides a platform on which other robots designed for search and rescue missions or for exploration, might be developed.

The EPFL robot is claimed to be the fastest in its category, namely in normalized speed for small quadruped robots under 30kg. During tests, it demonstrated its ability to run nearly seven times its body length in one second.

Although not as agile as a real cat, it still has excellent auto-stabilisation characteristics when running at full speed or over a course that includes obstacles such as small steps. In addition, the robot is extremely light, compact, and robust and can be easily assembled from materials that are inexpensive and readily available.

The strengths of this robot reside in the design of its legs. The number of segments – three on each leg – and their proportions are the same as they are on a cat. Springs are used to reproduce tendons, and actuators are used to replace the muscles.

“This morphology gives the robot the mechanical properties from which cats benefit, that’s to say a marked running ability and elasticity in the right spots, to ensure stability,” explains Alexander Sprowitz, a Biorob scientist. “The robot is thus naturally more autonomous.”

Still in an experimental stage, the robot will serve as a platform for research in locomotion and biomechanics.


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