The Boston Dynamics Cheetah Robot (Photo : Boston Dynamics)
Legged robots are eagerly anticipated due to the increased mobility such machines could bring to human aid. The robots would be able to traverse the same terrain such as a human - stairs; narrow, winding gaps; and could one day even jump with a human. But how about keeping up with one? Robotics company Boston Dynamics seems to be on track to that answer with the Cheetah, the world's fastest legged robot.
The Boston Dynamics Cheetah Robot is able to achieve faster-than-human speeds using hydraulic pump-powered legs. On all fours, it reached a speed of 28.3 miles per hour - a speed of around 0.5 miles per hour faster than Usain Bolt, according to Boston Dynamics - back on August 2012. The robot utilizes an off-board hydraulic pump for power and a boom-like device to keep it running in a straight line on a treadmill. The robot runs by imitating the muscular dynamic that an animal such as a cheetah would use to run.
Boston Dynamics was founded back in 1992 by National Academy of Engineering member Marc Raibert began creating robots that moved like animals. The Cheetah Robot was developed with funding from DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program.
"Compared to human beings and animals, however, the mobility and manipulation capability of present day robots is poor. In addition, design and manufacturing of current robotic systems are time consuming, and fabrication costs remain high," reads DARPA's M3 mission statement.
"If these limitations were overcome, robots could assist in the execution of military operations far more effectively across a far greater range of missions."
These fast, legged robots could provide an efficient strike force that could penetrate deep into enemy territory and not risk human lives. Their speed and mobility would allow for guerilla-like raids, and given the proper armor, could withstand gunshots and explosives. Besides, fighting a four-legged robot assassin would be a terribly scary scenario for any of America's enemies. With faster speeds, these could be the land-based equivalent of unmanned drones.
While much of DARPA is focused on military applications, the real world consequences of the Cheetah Robot project may be felt by everyday consumers as well in the future.
Imagine robotic pets that don't walk around like wind-up toys and a robotic dog that can go for runs with its owners. It would be great for humanitarian efforts as well, where these quadruped robots could rush to the scene of a disaster or even a crime in order to assist victims more quickly. There are far more whimsical applications that these fast-legged robots could manifest themselves in, but I'll leave that up to your own imagination.
After the Boston Dynamics Cheetah Robot reached the 28.3 miles per hour speed earlier this year on a treadmill, the company website stated that it planned to test out a free-running Cheetah Robot later in 2012, although as of now, there has been no news of one.
In what way do you think the Cheetah Robot from Boston Dynamics will manifest itself in society?
Part 2, "Pentagon Planning Rescue Robots that Save Peope", will be published tomorrow.