Robo-Cheetah Breaks Land Speed Record
Robots are an interesting exercise in engineering and, correspondingly, the editors here at DE like to cover them. Nearly every robot I can think of is created specifically for some purpose or another. This requires the folks who design and build the things to focus on the best way to accomplish whatever problem the robot is being tasked with. Robots are also just plain cool, but sometimes a part of me can’t help but think that Skynet is watching.
Boston Dynamics has recently unveiled a robot based on the movements of extraordinarily fast creatures in nature, intended to be capable of traversing terrain quickly and efficiently. The robot, developed with funding provided by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) takes its name from the creature it most resembles: the cheetah.
Moving about on four mechanical limbs, the robo-cheetah recently set a new land speed record for robotic movement by sprinting on a treadmill at 18mph (29kmh). The design is expected to be able to cross distances quickly, move evasively to confound attackers and come to a dead stop just as quickly. It was with these specs in mind that the researchers looked to nature for animals designed to move in similar ways.
The current prototype relies on an off-board hydraulic pump for power and received help with balance through the use of a boom, but Boston Dynamics hopes to test a free running version of the design later this year. While I’ll bet some folks might be interested in a home version, the robot was designed to operate as of a military force.
Other robots on Boston Dynamics’ drawing board include the LS3, basically an armored mule that can follow troops in the field, and the RiSE, which is capable of climbing vertical terrain (walls, trees, etc.). Only unarmed robots are allowed to have any sort of real AI, according to the laws of warfare, so most must be guided by a controller similar to how unmanned aerial vehicles are already used.
Below you’ll find a video of the robo-cheetah zipping along on the treadmill. The clicking noises it makes as it runs aren’t ominous at all. Nope.