Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, MA has unveiled their masterpiece: a robot they named after their inspiration, a cheetah.  The MIT project is being funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which also funded Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Boston Dynamics to develop similar applications.

Robotic Cheetah

What can the robotic Cheetah do?

The robot, which runs on batteries at speeds of more than 10mph, jump 16 inches and gallop for at least 15 minutes while using less power than a microwave, weighs near 70 pounds, roughly the same size as a female cheetah.

“This is kind of a Ferrari in the robotics world, like, we have to put all the expensive components and make it really that instinctive,” MIT Professor Sangbae Kim told the Associated Press. “That’s the only way to get that speed.”

Kim’s goal is that the cheetah will become skilled enough to help search and rescue operations in hostile environments, helping to prevent humans having to risk their lives in such situations.  “In the next 10 years, our goal is we are trying to make this robot to save a life,” Kim said.

Video of the robotic representation of an animal without skin reveals a tangled mix of wires and circuits attached to four agile legs that make the robot move rather smoothly, not as clunky as one would imagine a robot would walk, a report noted.

Testing the robotic Cheetah

The “cheetah” uses an algorithm that helps it determine how much pressure to put on each foot so it remains stable, and uses lightweight motors to help it run and jump. That equation is designed to help the robot to keep its balance and maintain its forward momentum, but there have been a few rather, well, human mishaps.

A recent test run of the robot was aborted after the cheetah device fell and broke one of its front legs.  While the human-sounding accident was quickly resolved, a few weeks later the cheetah made a jump when running along MIT’s campus and broke another leg.

While such robots are being promoted for their life saving, risk taking aspects, they are also being explored as potential weapons and soldiers that can deploy lethal force in battle.