This Two-Legged Robot Can Run Without Thinking

Anthony Cuthbertson

Fears that robots who think for themselves could one day spell the end of the human race may soon be settled by a new breed of machine that can move without needing an onboard computer—or it could be the beginning of a brand new cornucopia of concern.   

The world’s first bi-pedal robot that can balance while running without using a computer processor or sensors has been developed by engineers at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (IHMC).

The Planar Elliptical Runner uses geometry, not processors, to keep balance. IHMC

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Two-legged robots usually need gyroscopes, sensors and processors to measure feedback in order to stay on their feet. The ground-breaking design of the IHMC’s running robot allows it to move forward at up to 12 miles per hour without falling over, simply through its mechanical design.

A video of the Planar Elliptical Runner was published Wednesday, May 2, following an open day at IHMC’s Florida research facility.


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“The robot is ‘open loop stable.’ There is only one motor driving the legs,” IHMC said in the video’s description. “There are no sensors or computers on board. An RC car radio controller determines how much power to apply to the motor. Give the robot more power and it runs faster. Less power and it runs slower.”

The Planar Elliptical Runner can currently only move in one direction, but the robotics researchers are exploring ways to improve its movements to three dimensions.

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