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The Military Robotics News

DARPA's Robo-Cheetah Is Now Faster Than Usain Bolt 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
pigrabbitbear writes "The Boston Dynamics Cheetah just clocked a 28.3 miles per hour sprint on a treadmill, and it's heading outdoors soon. At that speed, it could edge out the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, in a dead sprint. (Bolt peaked at 27.78 miles per hour in his world-record-setting 100-meter dash back in 2009.) 'To be fair, keep in mind that the Cheetah robot runs on a treadmill without wind drag and has an off-board power supply that it does not carry,' admitted Boston Dynamics in a press release. 'So Bolt is still the superior athlete.' Nevertheless, the team hopes to drop these implements and have a freestanding speed bot by early next year. They're calling that model the WildCat."
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DARPA's Robo-Cheetah Is Now Faster Than Usain Bolt

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  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:11AM (#41258673)

    Wow! our advancement in technology to make a machine that and travel faster then a human! Amazing. Perhaps we can make a machine that can fly too.

    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:23AM (#41258753) Homepage

      The important thing about this kind of research is that the artificial solutions move in the same way as the biological models. That makes it easier to integrate them with biology. Amputees won't ever be happy to have lost a limb, but an artificial replacement that can outperform the original is a lot better than an artificial replacement that can do no more (and often does less) than the original.

      More fancifully, perhaps the Rat Things from Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash [amazon.com] are now a possibility.

      • The important thing about this kind of research is that the artificial solutions move in the same way as the biological models.

        Really? [wikipedia.org]

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        More fancifully, perhaps the Rat Things from Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash [amazon.com] are now a possibility.

        Unlikely, those things are described as running several hundred miles per hour, also I don't think the non-proliferation people will be too happy about all the RTGs involved-

        • I imagine that the mere existence of Raven, and his 'thermonuclear second strike is just a stroke away' deterrence policy, would keep the proliferation types too busy attempting to find underwear not sodden with human filth and pure fear to be worried about a few stray RTGs...

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:35AM (#41258841) Journal

        I suspect that much of the interest is also because of our persistent desire to more efficiently perform rescue operations and/or slaughter the locals in some downright hostile terrain.

        Just as a pick-and-place provided with precise instructions and reels of neatly packaged and identical components can out-assemble a factory worth of nimble-fingered children; but couldn't beat a single freshman nerd at 'dig through the junk box and breadboard something', wheeled vehicles run like a bat out of hell on the terrain we lovingly build for them; but work increasingly poorly outside of that. At the cost of size and weight, larger wheels and/or tracks can muscle the problem a bit; but there are limits.

        Legs, on the other hand, are mediocre at moving fast over well behaved terrain; but scrambling up mildly alarming slopes composed of loose rubble is practically routine...

        • by Shavano (2541114)
          Also handy for wrapping around branches while climbing a tree. And you can use them blind because the animal version is equipped with sensors.
        • Legs, on the other hand, are mediocre at moving fast over well behaved terrain; but scrambling up mildly alarming slopes composed of loose rubble is practically routine...

          If you get a chance, you should read the book "Born to Run". It puts forth the argument that we didn't evolve to run fast, we evolved to run over for long periods time. The idea being, we chased our prey until it collapsed. One of Attenborough's documentaries (Earth, I think) actually documents this kind of hunt. It's a pretty interesti

          • by Dyolf Knip (165446) on Friday September 07, 2012 @11:50AM (#41260871) Homepage

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistence_hunting [wikipedia.org]

            It's called Persistence Hunting, and it's awesome. There was a David Attenborough-narrated video of it on youtube that has been taken down, but basically they chase the animal for hours and hours. Being able to run isn't enough, you have to be able to quickly track it as well when it's out of sight. The upshot is that when you finally run it down, it's half dead with exhaustion already, and you can literally walk right up to it, spear in hand, and kill it.

            It's also a possible explanation for our relative hairlessness. Sweating apparently works better for cooling on bare skin.

        • by FhnuZoag (875558)

          But is this legged robot going to handle that rough terrain, either?

          There's the thing, really, Usain Bolt isn't this robot's rival. What this robot has to beat is not a human athlete, but an equivalent robot with wheels or a rotor. Even Usain Bolt can't run at 30 mph on rough ground, and I think it has still not been demonstrated that a legged robot would be intrinsically better at handling such terrain.

          • by Baloroth (2370816)

            A wheeled vehicle cannot travel over certain kinds of terrain at all, never mind with speed. A legged robot can. It doesn't need to be demonstrated, it's simply obvious that it is possible. This robot may not be able to (probably doesn't have the flexibility and co-ordination to lift it's legs the right way), but you can see it is possible simply by looking at a biological organism doing it. You don't start at the end (running up a rocky mountain), you start at the beginning (running on a treadmill).

            And not

        • by Krishnoid (984597) *

          like a bat out of hell

          Forget wheeled vehicles, I want one of these!

      • ... an artificial replacement that can outperform the original is a lot better than an artificial replacement that can do no more (and often does less) than the original.

        Especially when you can have them fitted with automatic weaponry. It will definitely help clear your path..

    • Wow! our advancement in technology to make a machine that and travel faster then a human! Amazing. Perhaps we can make a machine that can fly too.

      This is a good example of the type of ignorant, knee jerk comments that are ruining Slashdot. You know this is a technological advancement. If quadrupedalism is perfected, we could have ATV sized vehicles that can practically tackle almost any terrain. Besides the military applications, I could see these things being autonomously sent out to send medical kits and supplies to remote or war torn regions. I would normally tag this as redundant and move on, but since I'm all out of mod points, this long-winded

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Google drive car goes faster. Cruise missiles go a LOT faster.
      • Light's faster still - doesn't stop WildCat being cool.
        • by Shavano (2541114)

          Running on a treadmill really limits the coolness. As does the massive arm that holds it in place on the treadmill. I think it's clear they haven't mastered the control algorithms yet.

          The impressive thing about animals running isn't so much how fast they move. It's that they have complete mastery of all the controls, sensors and feedback systems it takes to run on legs over uneven surfaces and around unpredictably moving obstacles (e.g. to evade predators or catch prey). Even more impressive, they do

  • Neat but scary. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by xclr8r (658786) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:15AM (#41258691)
    I thought it was kind of cool that the limbs did not really differentiate from their front rear pairs until the very end.
    • I wonder if future firmware revisions will incorporate all sorts of deeply-unsettling sudden change of direction capabilities based on being able to swap 'front' and 'rear' limb roles in short order...

      There's still inertia to worry about; but something that moves forward or backward with equal speed and ease could pull off some interesting tricks.

  • holding the robot suspended in the air? Is that the power supply or this bot can't hold its weight/stability?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      RTFS: "has an off-board power supply that it does not carry"

      In addition, if you watch the video, the arm prevents the robot from being smashed when it finally trips up at the maximum speed.

    • by pushing-robot (1037830) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:23AM (#41258757)

      Or perhaps they didn't want the robot accidentally hurled into the back wall at 30mph?

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        Or perhaps they didn't want the robot accidentally hurled into the back wall at 30mph?

        Both, I think.

    • by xclr8r (658786) on Friday September 07, 2012 @08:25AM (#41258769)
      It's the external power supply and probably holds the com lines kill switches and probably acts as a tether so it doesn't accidentally trample a grad student.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But the title says its a DARPA project, isn't trampling grad students the goal?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by usuallylost (2468686)

      I watched the video a couple of times to try and determine that as well. It looks like the arm is freely moving. My guess is the purpose is to prevent it from flying across the lab and killing somebody when it fails. I’d guess that the power is coming in through the cables at the top.

      If they ever make this work I can envision some scary things that could be made with such technology. Killer robots hunting people down seems a little more plausible every day. For now this company has managed, with the

      • For now this company has managed, with their previous robot design, to make what is basically a $32 million dollar robotic replacement for a mule.

        "Horses can make other horses. That's a trick that tractors haven't learned." - Heinlein.

        • True, but they can also get sick, get scared, run away, people form emotional bonds to them, and if the claims of future BigDogs are true, would have a hard time carrying those sorts of payloads (400 lbs).

  • It looks to me like it's running backwards, there is something uncanny about it's gait. I love the way it does the "flip" at the end when the track gets too fast!
    • by Smigh (1634175)
      It looked uncanny to me too. I think I'd expect those joints to bend the other way, instead.
  • Now cheetah? This platform is everything to everybody! Has it actually found a usable man-portable power source yet or what?
  • Once a bipedal robot can outrun the fastest human, Skynet will make it's move. No chance for humans to escape.

    • Why does it need to be bipedal? I think I'd find a robodog or robospider scarier than a robohuman.

      • We can chalk it up to machine logic, fried circuitry, someone forgetting to insert a ; or { in the original code, or some sys-admin fell asleep at his desk and startled awake, spilling coffee on fetal Skynet.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      I was thinking more of the Fahrenheit 451 Mechanical Hound.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do you really trust the people who will ultimately control this kind of tech? Imagine 10,000 of them dropped from an airplane.

    • Do you really trust the people who will ultimately control this kind of tech? Imagine 10,000 of them dropped from an airplane.

      Parts! Look at all of those nifty parts!

      (Rubs hands together in glee).

      Here guys! Drop them over here!

  • But the robotic dog was the way a Terminator should have been built from the get go. For more effective, can stand if it wants to to operate weapons, and what dog doesn't bark at another dog? Yes military and police dogs don't - but the other dogs bark at them and even the trained dogs can get riled up.

  • Sarah, a cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo, set the 100 meter record for land mammal in June at 5.95 seconds--four seconds better than Bolt. This works out to 37.6 mph. While a cheetah in the wild might not quite hit that mark, they are easily faster than Bolt or 'bot, and do so on unprepared terrain, and often with zigs and zags chasing prey. DARPA has a way to go.
  • also carries his own energy source with him.
    What if we cut those chords hanging from the ceiling and the metal brace on the side?

    • by Guignol (159087)
      And is also a human with no hope whatsoever to compete with a real cheetah after which the bot was named (and is more look-like/work-like anyway)...
      It's a sad way to present what is on its own an impressive achievement
  • How long could a robot like this run - and how fast - if it did not have an external power supply?
    • How long could a robot like this run - and how fast - if it did not have an external power supply?

      About 67 attoseconds.

  • One thing I'm wondering about in regard to Big Dog is whether it can actually be knocked over. More importantly, if we were to lay it down on its side, would it be able to get back up? If I'm relying on it in the battlefield or as an emergency responder, the last thing I want is 400 lbs. of my supplies getting stuck on the back of a robot that's ended up on its side and stuck. If it can get back up, then I'd say we have something that would be an awesome replacement for a Mars rover, since it can certain

    • Look at the Big Dog videos - even the ones from several years ago showed them being pushed down on ice and having them recover. The problem with putting them on Mars is the same problem putting them in the battlefield - they're power pigs. Wheels have been chosen for the Mars rovers because they're very efficient on mostly flattish terrain.

      • by JoeRobe (207552)

        Yeah I saw the videos, which tell me that it's hard to knock Big Dog over. But I guess I was wondering what would happen if you knock it completely on its side, whether it can upright itself.

        That's very good point about the power - wonder how much power this sucks up, but I'm sure it's much more than a rover of comparable size.

        • by Smigh (1634175)
          This is AlphaDog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSbZrQp-HOk&feature=relmfu [youtube.com]

          In the end, they show it getting back up. I imagine Big Dog has a few of those procedures as well.
        • If you watch some of the Big Dog videos 'in the field', they seem to be using a rather noisy gas motor to power the thing. Looked like maybe a 10 - 20 hp Honda industrial motor from a couple of views - that's a lot of gasoline (equivalents) to be shipping to Mars. Of course, if you were to develop a Martian Dog that was designed for lower gravity, perhaps lower speed but optimized for power use and say, climbing (and durability) it might be a reasonable design.

          However, the Dogs are still pretty new. I do

  • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday September 07, 2012 @09:33AM (#41259269) Journal

    Is there a number I can call to be placed on the national "Do not kill" registry?

  • from Robocop. /You have 20 seconds to comply.

  • with razor-sharp leading edges..

  • ...welcome our new robo-cheetah overlords.

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