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Robotics The Military Technology

DARPA-Funded 'Cheetah' Breaks Speed Record For Legged Robots 96

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Boston Dynamics, a Waltham, Massachusetts technology firm and DARPA contractor, announced Monday that it's broken the speed record for running, legged robots. Its new four-legged creation is Cheetah, a robot that can run at 18 miles an hour, far faster than the 13.1 miles per hour record set by MIT in 1989. The video it's released shows Cheetah running on a treadmill, but the company hopes to both increase the robot's speed and take it onto outdoor terrain in the near future. Boston Dynamics rose to fame with its four-legged cargo robot Big Dog which showed an uncanny ability to walk over terrain and recover its footing even when it slips or is kicked. The firm followed up with Petman, a two-legged prototype that applies the same technology to human-style walking."
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DARPA-Funded 'Cheetah' Breaks Speed Record For Legged Robots

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  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:24PM (#39255355) Journal

    I thought that robot was kinda cool because it showed how superhumanly fast and agile our robot overlords will become.

    Even if this robot (when eventually built with an on board power supply) can "only" go 18 mph, remember that unlike a real cheetah, it will presumably be able to keep it up for miles (I think cheetahs can only maintain this speed for a quarter mile). That's because the real cheetah is limited by heat buildup, presumably the motors and power source of this inorganic machine can operate at much higher temperatures so is limited not by heat buildup but fuel capacity.

    Pretty scary if one of these things was chasing you down.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday March 05, 2012 @07:24PM (#39255361)
    Right. Because the only use of a running robot is killing people. Also, nothing DARPA ever worked on contributed to society. Especially not ARPANET.
  • by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2012 @03:53AM (#39258769)
    So what are the applications? Boston Dynamic's Big Dog robot is able to move over uneven terrain and carry a large load, but it's fairly slow, so it's limited to a sort of robotic pack mule role. The emphasis on speed here means this new robot is intended for some other kind of role. I can see three potential roles for this thing in combat.

    The first is as a scout- basically, the robot can walk point, look for potential ambushes or IEDs, run behind and see if anyone is following, or run up to the top of a hill to look around. A human could do the exact same thing, of course, but these are dangerous roles, and the robot is expendable.

    The second role is to act as a highly mobile fire team. Assuming you built a larger version of this thing, about the size of a person, you could arm it with a light machine gun. If a unit comes under attack, the robot could then rapidly move to take another position and shoot back at the enemy or provide covering fire. Again, this role could also be performed by a person, but it's less dangerous to have the robot open fire while you're pinned down than to stand up and risk getting shot.

    The third role is the one that immediately leaps to mind when you see this thing run, and that's a hunter-killer. This is the first robot that can actually chase down a person. A robotic vehicle might be faster, but it can't move over uneven terrain. Big Dog can move over uneven terrain, but it's not fast enough. You can hide from a flying drone. This thing could chase down and kill people. Stick a gun on it, or perhaps a Hellfire missile, and you'd have the terrestrial equivalent of a Predator drone.

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