If you found Boston Dynamics’ BigDog and LittleDog terrifying, get some new knickers ready. Boston Dynamics’ DARPA-funded Cheetah robot — which broke the land speed record for legged robots — just beat the human land speed record set by Usain Bolt in 2009. In Bolt’s record-setting 100 meter dash, there was a 20-meter stretch where his speed peaked at 27.78 mph. The Cheetah robot just beat that with a 28.30 mph 20-meter split, as evidenced by the video above. In other news, we are all doomed. DOOOOOMED.
To put it in perspective, the Cheetah robot was hitting a record-setting top speed of 18 mph only six months ago. DARPA said the 57% increase in speed achieved in only half a year was due to “improved control algorithms and a more powerful pump.” I don’t want to hear about a robot having a flexible back and a “more powerful pump” ever again, unless we’re talking about some kind of Cherry 2000 scenario here.
The Cheetah robot had some advantages over Bolt, as it was running on a treadmill without wind drag and its power supply is not attached to its back. Currently, it has to be tethered to an off-board power supply.
The next major step is to build an untethered version — one with an onboard engine and operator controls that work in 3D. “Our real goal is to create a robot that moves freely outdoors while it runs fast. We are building an outdoor version that we call WildCat, that should be ready for testing early next year,” Dr. Alfred Rizzi, the technical lead for the Cheetah effort, says in a statement. [WIRED]