Cornell robot breaks walking distance record

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A Cornell University robot named Ranger has travelled 14.3 miles in about 11 hours, setting an unofficial world record. A human armed with nothing more than a standard toy remote control steered the untethered robot to victory.

The Ranger travelled 108.5 times around Cornell’s Barton Hall indoor race track - about 212m per lap - and made about 70,000 steps before it had to stop and recharge. The 14.3-mile record beats the former world record set by Boston Dynamics’ BigDog, which covered 12.8 miles. Click here to view video and read The Engineer’s In-Depth look at BigDog.

A group of engineering students led by Andy Ruina, Cornell professor of theoretical and applied mechanics, announced the robotic record at the Dynamic Walking 2010 meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Ruina leads the Biorobotics and Locomotion Laboratory at Cornell University. The research is funded by the US National Science Foundation.

Previously, students in Ruina’s lab set a record for a robot walking untethered in April 2008, when Ranger strode about 5.6 miles around the Barton Hall track. Boston Dynamics’ BigDog subsequently beat that record.

One goal for robotic research is to show off a machine’s energy efficiency. Unlike other walking robots that use motors to control every movement, the Ranger emulates human walking, using gravity and momentum to help swing its legs forward.

Standing still, the robot looks a bit like a tall sawhorse, while its gait suggests a human on crutches, alternately swinging forward two outside legs and then two inside ones. There are no knees, but its feet can be flipped up and out of the way while it swings its legs so that the robot can finish its step.