MIT has a track record of building new and cool robots. Over the past few years, we have seen engineers come up with some crazy ideas, all of which are viable in the long run. The new Cheetah 3 robot is designed to save human lives. Most people will be familiar with this four-legged robot, as we have discussed on this website before. Having a real use case for such a robot will certainly change the way we think about medical response teams.
Cheetah 3 is a Big Step Forward
On paper, it does not necessarily make a lot of sense to build a robot capable of achieving a speed of up to 14 miles an hour. While that is a very fast robot to contend with, its use cases are pretty limited. This is why MIT has continued to improve upon their Cheetah model, which accumulates in the form of a third iteration. The Cheetah 3 is still autonomous and is now capable of saving lives.
The Cheetah 3 is definitely a philosophical change compared to the two previous iterations. MIT has been focusing on autonomy and speed for quite some time now, but they are now tackling things from an entirely different angle altogether. Impressive demos of a four-legged running robot are always fun to watch, but they do not necessarily translate into practical use cases right away.
It is mainly designed to serve as a search-and-rescue robot. The team wants to see their robot deployed in a real situation, such as the Fukushima area, for example. The region is still dealing with the fallout of the nuclear reactor meltdown a few years ago. It is a bit unclear how the Cheetah 3 would be of use in that regard, but the MIT team is quite hopeful Cheetah 3 can monitor the environment, among other things.
If our society wants to embrace industrial robots and have them carry out dangerous tasks, locations such as Fukushima are a good place to start. Even routine checks in the region are hazardous to humans and deploying robots to complete the tasks makes a lot of sense. So far, some robots have been deployed in the region to ensure they can handle tasks too dangerous for humans. None of those robots have four maneuverable limbs like the Cheetah 3 does.
Having four legs at one’s disposal makes a great difference in such treacherous areas. Traditional machines are unable to cope with the demand terrain conditions. Human intervention is the only alternative, but in regions such as Fukushima, that is virtually the same as signing a death warrant. Robots such as the Cheetah 3 can make a big impact. The robot may not save lives directly, but it will prevent human workers from exposing themselves to potentially lethal doses of radiation.
There is another advantage the Cheetah 3 provides compared to other robots. It can carry payloads of substantial weight from point A to point B without too many issues. The machine is still in the very early stages of development and lots of fine tuning still needs to be done in the coming months and years. Right now, Cheetah 3 is being tested vigorously across the MIT campus. It will be interesting to see when it is first deployed.