Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah Robot Runs 18 MPH

By March 10, 2012

Boston Dynamics is working on a cheetah robot that can run up to 18 mph. The company is creating the robot with help from DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program (or M3), which aims to improve the mobility of robots used for defensive military purposes.

The movement of the robot was inspired by the cheetah animal, as the Boston Dynamics website best explains: “This robot has an articulated back that flexes back and forth on each step, thereby increasing its stride and running speed, much like the animal does.” The creators of the robot are not yet sure of what specific task the Cheetah will perform, though they hope the development of the technology will lead to discoveries of new applications for the fast robot. The final build of the robot is planned to have a head as well as a flexible spine, and would ideally reach speeds nearing 70 mph, close to that of a real cheetah.

The Cheetah robot broke the previous record speed for legged robots of 13.1 mph, originally set by MIT in 1989. During testing the robot is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and kept in the center of the treadmill by a suspended harness. The Cheetah has only been used on a treadmill in a controlled environment for now, though the company hopes to test the robot in a live environment later this year. Check out the video below to see the terrifying robot in action. It looks kind of like a cyborg, store-bought turkey slicing at a treadmill.

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Boston Dynamics is hard at work on all kinds of robots, showcasing new kinds of mobility for various purposes. A four-legged, ambling robot prototype called AlphaDog (profiled as a Legged Squad Support System) can carry up to 400 lbs of equipment and follows automatically using GPS. The PETMAN, a creepy humanoid robot, can walk and do push ups, though the company uses it primarily for stress testing chemical protection clothing. Boston Dynamics even has a climbing robot, named RiSE, that can climb walls and trees using six legs, each with its own micro-claw that allows the robot to attach itself to textured surfaces.

Regardless of whether or not some of these machines will be haunting our strangest dreams for the next few weeks, it will be interesting to see the various field applications discovered through Boston Dynamic’s research into new types of robot mobility. At the very least a Cheetah robot, no matter how terrifying, has to be more robust and useful than what we have now.

Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.