A two-legged running robot known as the Planar Elliptical Runner has been developed by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Ocala, Florida.
MIT Technology Review reports that the robot was developed by engineers to understand better how mechanical design can be used to allow sophisticated legged locomotion. A video of the robot in action, which can be seen below, shows the robot performing a multitude of tasks, including running on a treadmill and even running alongside a car.
Unlike other legged robots, the Planar Elliptical Runner does not use onboard sensors and a computer to balance and stay upright. Rather, the devices mechanical design provides enough stability for the robot to run without the use of a digital “brain.” Jerry Pratt, the senior research scientist at IHMC who leads the team that developed the robot said, “All the intelligence is in the physical design of the robot itself.”
Pratt believes that the design of the robot may be useful in the development of future robotics, “We believe that the lessons learned from this robot can be applied to more practical running robots to make them more efficient and natural looking,” Pratt continued, “running will be eventually useful for any application that you want to do quickly and where wheels can’t work well.”
The robot uses a single motor which powers the legs of the device, combined with the elliptical motion of its legs, to allow the robot to run upright in a manner that is being compared to an Ostrich. As of now the robot only runs at a speed of a few miles per hour, but if it were as large as a human, it could reach speeds of between 10 to 15 miles an hour according to researchers.
Jerry Pratt believes that the robot could have multiple applications in real world situations, “Robots with legs will be particularly useful in places where you want a human presence, but it’s too dangerous, expensive, or remote to send a real human,” Pratt says. “Examples include nuclear power plant decommissioning and planetary exploration. These are very small, niche, markets, though.”