Weighing in at 90 pounds, the cheetah robot is designed to navigate almost any kind of terrain without tracking camera. Instead, the robot "feels" its surroundings, as described by MIT engineers as "blind locomotion," sort of like feeling for a light switch in the dark.
"There are many unexpected behaviors the robot should be able to handle without relying too much on vision," says the robot's designer, Sangbae Kim, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT. "Vision can be noisy, slightly inaccurate, and sometimes not available, and if you rely too much on vision, your robot has to be very accurate in position and eventually will be slow. So we want the robot to rely more on tactile information. That way, it can handle unexpected obstacles while moving fast."
In the event a motor or limb malfunctions, the cheetah is designed with modular components: Three electric motors power each of the robot's legs. Each motor can easily be swapped out for a new one, or even the leg can be replaced.
MIT engineers will present the cheetah's vision-free capabilities in October at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots, in Madrid.