February 27, 2013 AT 8:01 am

Pneupard: A Pneumatic Big Cat

Pneupard is an attempt at a robotic leopard from Japan’s Osaka University. From IEEE Spectrum:

Roboticists around the world are in the process of reverse engineering the anatomical construction of cheetahs and other cats in an attempt to develop faster and more agile legged robots. The latest project, dubbed the Pneupard, hails from Osaka University. Although still early in development, the new biomimetic platform stands out from some of the others through its use of pneumatic artificial muscles as its primary means of locomotion.

The Pneupard is a creation of researchers Andre Rosendo and Shogo Nakatsu, under the supervision of Kenichi Narioka and Professor Koh Hosoda at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. The team has worked extensively with pneumatic artificial muscles in the past. We’ve previously covered their biped Athlete, and shared a video of their adorable infant robot Pneuborn.

Pneumatic artificial muscles may be made from a rubber tube sheathed in nylon, but they contract much like the real thing when filled with air. They can pack a lot of power in short bursts and are also highly flexible and impact-resistant, giving them a lifelike quality that is often missing in robots powered by electric motors. The muscle contractions, when combined with limbs that accurately replicate the length, forces, and range of motion of a real cat, naturally generate a lifelike movement.

It’s kind of creepy and exciting to see this thing flex it’s wire muscles, because it moves in starts and fits, and it seems almost alive.

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