Cheetah robot has set a new world speed record for legged robots, running faster than Usain Bolt, who is considered the fastest human.
The headless machine, funded by the Pentagon, reached 28.3 mph (45.5 km/h) when tested on a treadmill.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s top speed is 27.78 mph (44.7 km/h).
The project is part of efforts to develop robots for military use. One robotics expert said that it was “unfortunate” the Cheetah was made primarily “to kill people”.
It has been created by the Massachusetts robotics company Boston Dynamics and backed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Cheetah robot has set a new world speed record for legged robots, running faster than Usain Bolt
According to DARPA, the aim is to “more effectively assist war fighters across a greater range of missions”.
The Cheetah, which is powered by a hydraulic pump, broke its own record of 18 mph (29 km/h), recorded in February.
“The Cheetah had a slight advantage over Bolt as it ran on a treadmill, but most of the power Cheetah used was to swing and lift its legs fast enough, not to propel itself forward,” DARPA said in a statement.
The agency plans to test the robot in the field in 2013.
The machine’s design has been inspired by the real cheetah, the fastest land animal, which can reach speeds of 75 mph (121 km/h).
“Cheetahs happen to be beautiful examples of how natural engineering has created speed and agility across rough terrain,” said Gill Pratt, DARPA programme manager.
“Our Cheetah bot borrows ideas from nature’s design to inform stride patterns, flexing and unflexing of parts like the back, placement of limbs and stability.”
“What we gain through Cheetah and related research efforts are technological building blocks that create possibilities for a whole range of robots suited to future Department of Defense missions.”
Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield, has mixed feelings about the development.
“It’s an incredible technical achievement, but it’s unfortunate that it’s going to be used to kill people,” he suggested.
“It’s going to be used for chasing people across the desert, I would imagine. I can’t think of many civilian applications – maybe for hunting, or farming, for rounding up sheep.
“But of course if it’s used for combat, it would be killing civilians as well as it’s not going to be able to discriminate between civilians and soldiers.”
DARPA’s press release for the Cheetah project suggested that the robots might ultimately be used in “emergency response, humanitarian assistance and other defence missions”.
Cheetah, a four-legged and headless robot, has set a new world speed record, according to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
DARPA said Cheetah achieved 18 mph (29 km/h) on a laboratory treadmill and the previous land speed record by a legged robot was 13.1 mph.
The agency said that the project was part of efforts to develop robots designed to “more effectively assist war fighters across a greater range of missions”.
DARPA – which is run by the Pentagon – funded the Massachusetts robotics company Boston Dynamics to build the machine.
“We plan to get off the treadmill and into the field as soon as possible,” said the firm’s chief robotics scientist, Alfred Rizzi, in a statement.
“We really want to understand what is possible for fast-moving robots.”
Cheetah, a four-legged and headless robot, has set a new world speed record, according to DARPA
The robot’s movements have been modeled on those of fast-running animals in the wild. The machine is designed to flex and un-flex its back to increase the length of its stride.
The current version of Cheetah is dependent on an off-board hydraulic pump, requiring one of the researchers to hold the tubing out of its way. However, the researchers said a free-running prototype was planned for later this year.
The four-year project, which was commissioned in February 2011, ultimately aims to deliver a robot which can “zigzag to chase and evade”, and be able to come to an abrupt halt.
It builds on other models based on animals created by Boston Dynamics including its BigDog rough-terrain robot, designed to recycle energy from one step to the next, and its lizard-like Rise, which can climb walls, trees and fences by using micro-claws on its six feet and a tail for balance.