Robotics engineers with companies like Boston Dynamics have been hard at work on complex computer systems paired with motion sensors and gyroscopes to give their bipedal robots the stability they need to, well, be useful. But what if such robots didn’t need computers to help them remain upright? A new robot design called the Planar Elliptical Runner, engineered and built by the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition in Florida, can not only run via two legs, it can do without any added stability technology.
Thanks to a complex mechanical design, the runner is able to sprint at an impressive clip while remaining perfectly balanced. While still rather small in stature, IHMC’s simulations and further testing show that its stability should, in theory, scale along with its size. At a speed of roughly 12 miles per hour at its current size, the robot would be able to hit speeds of up to 30 mph if it were built to stand toe-to-toe with a human.
The robot’s legs are driven by a single motor, and its creators built it to work with an RC car remote controller to adjust its power and overall speed. In the video showcasing the bot’s testing — with the Discovery Channel apparently also filming it at the same time — the bot is shown running between two pieces of transparent plastic. However, IHMC notes that, in the time since the video was shot, the robot’s stability has been honed and it can run freely while remaining balanced both left and right as well as forward and backwards as demonstrated in the clip.