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Robot Cheetah breaks Legged Robot Land Speed Record
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Robot Cheetah breaks Legged Robot Land Speed Record

Modelled loosely on the design of the robot BigDog, Boston Dynamics' latest quadruped combat robot prototype follows the form of the big cats instead of the big canines. It has the same basic self-teaching AI, and learns how to handle terrain like a baby does – trial and error in what works best for itself, and the body it is in.

This robot, codenamed Cheetah, set a world record for the speed of a quadruped robot on even ground, on March 5th 2012, by maintaining a sustained speed of 18mph, or 29kph on a treadmill at Dynamics' lab. The previous record was just the previous land speed record by a legged robot was 13.1mph set in 1989 at MIT.

"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."

Currently the robot is not an autonomous unit, unlike BigDog. This is what is keeping it out of the field. The current version of the Cheetah robot it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. A free-standing version, most likely using a diesel motor like previous robots, is planned for later this year.

The robot’s movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature.  The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does.

It was developed as part of DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which seeks to realise the great promise robots have for augmentation and amplifying human effectiveness in military operations, both defensive and offensive. Since modern robots are nowhere near ready for that, the program's goals are to accelerate robotic development in all fields, as fast as possible.

Of course, any and all advances in this program, are of immediate benefit to all manner of non-military programs as well, for you cannot have one without the other.

References

DARPA’s “Cheetah” Sets Land Speed Record for Legged Robots

DARPA’s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program

Quadruped Robots > Big Dog

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