Why animals can outrun robots

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Animals are much better at running than robots. The difference in performance arises in the important dimensions of agility, range, and robustness. To understand the underlying causes for this performance gap, we compare natural and artificial technologies in the five subsystems critical for running: power, frame, actuation, sensing, and control. With few exceptions, engineering technologies meet or exceed the performance of their biological counterparts. We conclude that biology’s advantage over engineering arises from better integration of subsystems, and we identify four fundamental obstacles that roboticists must overcome. Toward this goal, we highlight promising research directions that have outsized potential to help future running robots achieve animal-level performance.




Burden, S. A., Libby, T., Jayaram, K., Sponberg, S., & Donelan, J. M. (2024). Why animals can outrun robots. Science Robotics, 9(89). https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.adi9754

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