This is MABEL, a bipedal robot who currently resides in a lab at the University of Michigan. Although MABEL has no head and needs a guiding bar to navigate its tiny gymnasium, this jogging robot can maintain an eerily human 6.8-mile-per-hour strut.
MABEL was built in 2008 in collaboration with Jonathan Hurst, who was then a doctoral student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. [Michigan professor Jessy] Grizzle and U-M doctoral students Koushil Sreenath and Hae-Won Park have spent the years since ratcheting up MABEL's training. They've been progressively improving the feedback algorithms that enable the robot to keep its balance while reacting to its environment in real time [...]
Few robots can run, and the researchers say no machine but MABEL can do it with such a human-like gait. Its weight is distributed like a person's. It has a heavier torso and light, flexible legs with springs that act like tendons. MABEL is in the air for 40 percent of each stride, "like a real runner," Grizzle said. Other running robots are almost speed-walking. Their so-called flight phase when both feet are off the ground lasts for less than 10 percent of each step.
Although it doesn't look like MABEL will receive the full humanoid robot treatment anytime soon, its creators hope to someday attach these gams to an exoskeleton or some form of off-road transport. Let's get some more walking trucks up in here!