Researchers have long been interested in fast-running robots with powerful, agile legs. In particular, several groups have focused on bio-inspired designsbased on cheetahs.
But when a team at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) set out to create a new sprinting robot, they didn't look at big cats; instead, they found inspiration in a completely different kind of creature: a velociraptor.
The robot, called Raptor, has two nimble legs and a mechanism that mimics a tail. In a recent experiment, it achieved an impressive speed of 46 kilometers per hour on a treadmill.
That's faster than the fastest human, the Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, whose top speed has been estimated at 43.92 km/h.
And it's almost as fast as the world's fastest legged robot, Cheetah, built by Boston Dynamics, which reached 47 km/h in a trial two years ago, also on a treadmill.
But before you suggest a robot race between the two machines, note that both Raptor and Cheetah are attached to beams that keep them steady and prevent them from running off the treadmill -- and crashing through a wall.
And despite their similar speeds, the two robots are very different. Cheetah is a hefty quadruped, powered by hydraulic actuators. Raptor is a compact, 3-kilogram machine, with two legs made of lightweight composite material.
Another difference is that Raptor has a tail. Although it looks nothing like a Velociraptor's tail, it works like one, moving rapidly to help the robot maintain its body stable while stepping over obstacles, says Jongwon Park, a PhD student at KAIST's Mechatronics, Systems, and Control Laboratory.
Park developed Raptor along with colleagues Jinyi Lee, Jinwoo Lee, Kyung-Soo Kim, and Professor Soohyun Kim.
A recent video of Raptor shows the robot progressively increasing its speed until it reaches the 46 km/h mark. The video also shows a researcher placing obstacles on the treadmill. Thanks to its tail, Raptor doesn't trip on them.