By >RENO J. TIBKE
Cheetah-Cub, a Swiss Cat that Runs Like a Robot. No, wait…
Ahhh, Switzerland. Not only Europe’s centralized hub for chocolate, cheese, watches, banking, and international apolitical neutrality (so lucky), the nation also boasts two of the finest science and engineering schools on the planet. Naturally, that begets robots, and on Monday, the EPFL begat a cat: the Cheetah-Cub.
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So, the Swiss Have Awesome Robots?
Totally, but for most, when thinking about top robot labs & makers, the mind goes quickly toward DARPA-funded work, MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Tech, Honda, Tokyo and/or Osaka Universities, KAIST, etc. So maybe the Swiss just aren’t awesome at marketing, because the country actually is the geographical locus of robotics development in Europe, and its two big tech schools conduct research in no fewer than 6 disciplines each – here, look:
“Yet Another Highly Advanced Robot from Switzerland”
Not an overly common news headline, but probably should be.
Cheetah-Cub from EPFL
The Cheetah-Cub comes from the Biorobotics Laboratory at the French speaking École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in southern Switzerland (that’s the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, for those unable or unwilling to do the linguistic math).
Cheetah-Cub walks with the elastic, hoppity, distinct gait of the common house cat – and it’s fast for a robot of its size. Based on meticulous observation and reverse engineering, it’s legs were designed with springs and actuators to mimic the biomechanics of feline legs (also at comparable size & weight).
It’s a durable, inexpensive, easy to produce research platform that the team hopes will lead to small machines more closely approximating the physical dexterity of meat-based cats. Eventually they might assist with rescue and exploration efforts.
Of course, the shot of the engineer “walking” Cheetah-Cub brings up the question, but so far there’s no word on plans for a pet version. Again, that marketing issue… maybe it just isn’t in the Swiss cultural toolhouse. They should get on that (hire France or Germany, perhaps?), because a project to develop a non-shedding, non meowing, non-excreting pet/toy cat with an off button could make a lot of people happy (and probably get funding).
Alright, that’s a wrap – and not one lame “always lands on its feet” jab in the whole piece. Success!
In this context, one would be remiss to not mention the super-advanced, inexcusably canceled AIBO. What could more appropriately give Cheetah-Cub a chase? It’s true, the Saddest Robots in Japan Live Among the Sins of Sony.
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Reno J. Tibke is the founder and operator of Anthrobotic.com and a contributor at the non-profit Robohub.org.