You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

Meet MABEL, the fastest robot with 2 knees

By Cindy Heflin

MABEL the robot is the toast of the University of Michigan Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department.

Researchers recently clocked MABEL running at a rate of 6.8 miles per hour. U-M scientists believe that makes her the fastest robot with a human-like gait.

Though MABEL runs on two legs and keeps her balance on her own, she's not quite a free sprit. A guide bar attached keeps her running in circles.

U-M engineering professor Jessy Grizzle pronounced MABEL's performance "stunning" in a press release. "I have never seen a machine doing a motion like this."

Researchers imagine some extraordinary possibilities for robots that can walk and run like humans, U-M said.

"If you would like to send in robots to search for people when a house is on fire, it probably needs to be able to go up and down stairs, step over the baby's toys on the floor, and maneuver in an environment where wheels and tracks may not be appropriate," Grizzle said.

MABEL was built in 2008 in collaboration with Jonathan Hurst, who was then a doctoral student at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, U-M said in the press release.

Grizzle and U-M doctoral students Koushil Sreenath and Hae-Won Park have spent the years since ratcheting up MABEL's training. They've been progressively improving the feedback algorithms that enable the robot to keep its balance while reacting to its environment in real time.

MABEL started off walking on even surfaces but eventually learned to clear obstacles like stacked wood.

MABEL is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.



Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

As a computer science grad myself, I think that's a terrific demo project and they did a great job. But as a human being I think the most likely application is the military, where our future enemies will face down robotic drone aircraft and robot soldiers. Or worse, the Chinese will get ahold of enough of the technology and we'll eventually be the ones facing robot soldiers.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 12:20 p.m.

Yawn. One dollar short.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

I second your belief the Chinese will employ this technology when they invade. Although with 1.5 billion people who needs a Robot Army?


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

After it's amazing display of running, MABEL was asked what it's next goal would be and was heard repeating, "Are you John Connor?" ...over and over.

Guinea Pig in a Tophat

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 6:12 p.m.

6.8 miles per hour, that's a 8:50 mile/pace. Whew, I can still out run it when it breaks free.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:16 a.m.

Right...but MABEL doesn't get tired. You eventually will.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

U of M, ALWAYS bringing up the rear when it comes to state of the art robotics. Well, better late than never, right?


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

What makes you think UM is bringing up the rear? The garbage in "Popular Science" is mostly wishful thinking and hogwash. Unless you are referring to C3P0 and R2D2. End transmission. 100010101010101111001 And just to be safe: 8AAB19

Bertha Venation

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 4:28 p.m.

Danger, Will Robinson.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

Terminator phase 1 complete. How's Skynet coming along EECS Dept?


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 4:16 p.m.

Roger ! Roger !


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 3:50 p.m.

Reminds me of the Cylons from BSG. They have to start somewhere...


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 3:33 p.m.

We can have an army of MABELs patrolling downtown Ann Arbor and the countryside looking for evildoers! I for one welcome our new robot overlords. 10001001010101110110