MABEL here is a fast lady. At 6.8 miles per hour, she’s the quickest human-like runner in the robot world. She is also the owner of some of the freakiest knees, right up there with Dr. Seuss’s ominous pale green pants and the spider-like prancings of BigDog, the defense robot you hope you never meet coming through the woods at night.
Running robots could transport baggage and participate in rescue operations where rugged terrain makes wheeled vehicles useless, which is why DARPA funds projects like the quadruped BigDog, which is already fairly well developed and has a top speed of about 5 mph. MABEL is a biped bot, which means she’s probably less stable than a quadruped, but more able to potentially stand in for humans in activities like climbing stairs (and certainly a more useful instance of human biomimicry than some robots we could name). Watching her strut her stuff around a little indoor track in the video above, you’ll notice the springing motion of her legs, which is very similar to a human running–both spend about 40% of their time in the air, according to her builders, a team of roboticists at University of Michigan.
Ooo, ahh, and pity the lab downstairs.