Record breaking robot goes 18mph

The worlds of science, science fiction and star wars are rapidly merging. Marc Perry takes a look at a scientific development that has just set the world land speed record, for a robot.

A Robot named “Cheetah” has set a new land speed record for legged robots at 18mph during a treadmill workout last Monday, 5 March.

“Cheetah” has been developed by scientists at Boston Dynamics using military funding for the advancement of robotics.

The robot beat the previous record, of 13mph, set by a two legged robot in 1989 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The world beating performance can be seen below:

The ultimate goal of the Boston team is to get the robot running much faster on real terrain.

Dr. Alfred Rizzi, chief robotics scientist at Boston Dynamics said: “We designed the treadmill to go over 50 mph but we plan to get off the treadmill and into the field as soon as possible, we really want to understand the limits of what is possible for fast moving robots.”

The team is working with British scientist Dr. Alan Wilson, an expert on the movement of animals at the Royal Veterinarian College, London. Dr. Wilson’s data on the movement horses, greyhounds, ostriches and camels was used as a starting point in the design process. As a result, the robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much like animals do.

Marc Raibert, president of Boston Dynamics said: “To get Cheetah running faster and develop robots capable of operating in the natural world, we must create robot hardware and software with the speed, flexibility and strength of athletes.

“Going after these kinds of engineering challenges, that combine new theory with exotic hardware and radical performance, is what we love to do”

Although the research is funded from military coffers the technology could also be used for civil applications such as emergency rescue and disaster response.

Boston Dynamics makes innovative robots including a quadruped for travel on rough ground, and a insect-like robot that climbs vertical surfaces.

Main image and video: Boston Dynamics
Story source:
Boston Dynamics press release

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