Video: Watch a Sprinting Robot Fall Down

By Eliza Strickland | December 14, 2010 4:58 pm

sprint-botIn pursuit of a glorious future in which robots can outrun humans (what could possibly go wrong?), researcher Ryuma Niiyama has unveiled Athlete, a bot that’s intended to sprint.

The bipedal robot’s upper legs are modeled on the human musculoskeletal system, while the lower legs are fashioned from the spring-like blades that amputee runners use (and use so effectively that some have called the blades an unfair advantage).

Erico Guizzo of IEEE Spectrum explains:

Each leg has seven sets of artificial muscles. The sets, each with one to six pneumatic actuators, correspond to muscles in the human body — gluteus maximus, adductor, hamstring, and so forth…. The researchers are now teaching Athlete to run. They programmed the robot to activate its artificial muscles with the same timing and pattern of a person’s muscles during running.

Niiyama described his bot at the IEEE conference on humanoid robots last week, and has published a paper (pdf) on the project in the journal Industrial Robot. The challenge is to get all those artificial muscles working in sequence as the bot bounds across the landscape.

It’s a big challenge. So far, Athlete can take only three to five steps before tumbling to the ground. Still that’s pretty impressive compared to a hopping prototype from 2007 (seen in the video below), which took one great leap for robotics and promptly fell down. Humans, maybe you don’t need to run for your lives just yet.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Brain Surgery Enables Woman to Run 100-Mile Races
80beats: Ostriches Are Endurance Runners, Thanks to the Spring in Their Steps
80beats: Running by the Books: Math for the Marathoner
80beats: No Shoes, No Problem? Barefoot Runners Put Far Less Stress on Their Feet
80beats: Scientist Smackdown: Are a Sprinter’s Prostethic Legs an Unfair Advantage?

Video: Ryuma Niiyama

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Ian Tindale

    If you ran fast with your hands kept in your pockets, you’d be likely to do the same.

  • Vorn

    What impresses me most about this is how human it looks while falling over. I could easily imagine slipping up and falling exactly that way.

  • Chris

    Shouldn’t they perfect the robot’s walking before making it run? 2 words “Baby steps”


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar