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Friday, September 7, 2012

Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah robot runs faster than Usain Bolt

By Ira Kanter
September 7, 2012

An agency of the U.S. Department of Defense has developed a new robot — dubbed Cheetah — capable of running more than 28 miles per hour, leaving the world’s fastest runner, Usain Bolt, in the dust.

Cheetah is being developed and tested under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s maximum mobility and manipulation program by Boston Dynamics. One of the program’s main goals is to enhance robot movement and capabilities in natural and degraded man-made environments where defense personnel often operate.

DARPA plans to test a Cheetah prototype on natural terrain next year, but for now the four-legged robot runs on a treadmill in a lab to allow researchers to monitor its progress, refine algorithms and maintain its moving parts.

The current version of the Cheetah robot is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill.

“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,” said DARPA program manager Gill Pratt. “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.”

Bolt, an Olympic gold medalist, set the world speed record for a human in 2009 when he reached a peak speed of 27.78 mph for a 20-meter split during the 100-meter sprint. However, Cheetah had a slight advantage as it ran on a treadmill, the equivalent of a 28.3 mph tail wind.


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