Cheetahs are the fastest creatures on land, deriving their speed and power from the flexing of their spines.
Thanks to his biomechanical inspiration, mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University have managed to triple the speed of previous generations of robots. You can see it in action below .
This new type of squishy robot is capable of moving faster on solid surfaces or in water than previous generations of these autonomous machines.
The researchers were inspired by the cheetah to create a type of squishy robot that has a spring-loaded bistable spine, which means that the robot has two stable states.
The fastest soft robots ever could move at speeds of up to 0.8 body lengths per second on flat, solid surfaces. The new class of soft robots, called LEAP (Leveraging Elastic instabilities for Amplified Performance), can reach speeds of up to 2.7 body lengths per second, more than three times faster, at a low actuation frequency of approximately 3Hz. These "galloping" LEAP robots are approximately 7 centimeters long and weigh around 45 grams .
As Jie Yin , assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University, explains:
We can quickly switch between these stable states by pumping air into the channels that line the silicone robot. Switching between the two states releases a significant amount of energy, allowing the robot to quickly exert a force against the ground. This allows the robot to gallop across the surface, which means that its feet leave the ground. Previous soft robots were trackers, staying in contact with the ground at all times. This limits your speed.