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Watch MIT’s Mini Cheetahs limber up for the robot apocalypse

Testing 9 New Mini Cheetahs

The Biomimetics Robotics team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently took a number of its talented Mini Cheetah robots for some fun in the park.

Depending on your outlook, the display will either have you tilting your head slightly to one side while uttering something along the lines of, “Ahh, aren’t they cute,” or possibly slack-jawed and wide-eyed at the apparent confirmation that the robot apocalypse is surely almost upon us.

MIT will say there’s nothing to be concerned about, so let’s put any fears to one side for a moment and enjoy the incredible sight of the nine remote-controlled quadrupeds frolicking in the fall leaves, playing soccer, and even performing backflips.

As you can see, the 20-pound (9 kg) robocat is remarkably versatile with its ability to move in all directions, hop on the spot, and even recover to a standing position if it falls over — a vital skill if the Mini Cheetah is ever to be used for search and rescue missions where tricky terrain could cause it to lose its footing.

MIT’s Cheetah project was first announced in 2009 and the robot has seen a number of iterations since then. This latest version, its smallest and most refined yet, was unveiled earlier this year when it showed off its new backflip party trick.

The team behind the remarkable Mini Cheetah plans to lend it out to other labs to give more engineers the chance to explore their own ideas and hopefully further advance the technology behind it. MIT designed the Cheetah to be easy and relatively cheap to fix in the hope that it’ll give engineers more freedom when it comes to testing out new ideas for the robot.

“A big part of why we built this robot is that it makes it so easy to experiment and just try crazy things, because the robot is super robust and doesn’t break easily, and if it does break, it’s easy and not very expensive to fix,” Benjamin Katz, a technical associate in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, said earlier this year.

MIT’s Mini Cheetah may remind you of a four-legged robot from another team of genius robot builders. Boston Dynamics’ SpotMini is another stunning creation that manages to combine agility and strength with smarts that enable the robot to perform some tasks autonomously.

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Trevor Mogg
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