The world-record breaking Cheetah robot was first unveiled by robotics firm Boston Dynamics in 2012, with the quadruped bot managing to break the land-speed record set by humans, running at speeds of up to 29.3 mph (beating Usain Bolt’s record of27.9mph).
However, the manic sprinter was restrained by hydraulic pumps powering its legs and tethering it to a treadmill. Now Boston Dynamics have released a video of Cheetah’s successor – the WildCat. Although it’s only half as fast as Cheetah (reaching speeds of 16mph) WildCat is completely free-roaming, and is the latest addition to the military-funded company’s roster of ground-breaking robots.
Boston Dynamics is also the team responsible for BigDog and LS3 – quadruped robots designed to act as mules for infantry by carrying heavy equipment across difficult terrain. On-board cameras track its human ‘owner’ and the bot follows automatically behind. CNET recently reported that the LS3 is currently being tested carrying 400lbs (181kg) on a 20-mile journey without refuelling in 24 hours.
Other creations by Boston Dynamics include RHex (an agile and speedy hexapod about the size of a small dog) and ATLAS (‘one of the most advance humanoids ever built’ – with development aimed at using the robot in disaster relief situations). As ever with videos of Boston Dynamics creations the first thought on viewing is of the impending obsolescence and destruction of humanity, but with this latest creation there seems to be at least one consolation: if it does choose to run you down in the street you’ll at least hear it coming a mile off.
The giant four-legged robots George Lucas created for the opening battle of “The Empire Strikes Back” were fictional. But three decades later, a company called Boston Dynamics has made great strides toward making them a reality. With funding from DARPA, the military’s advanced research agency, Boston Dynamics has created a series of robots that are capable of walking, running and climbing on many kinds of terrain.
An older robot, known as Big Dog, can walk up and down hills and keep its balance on snow and ice. In a promotional video, someone shoves Big Dog to the side. The robot staggers sideways but manages to maintain its balance and continue on its route. We don’t know what Google CEO Larry Page plans to do with his latest toys, but we imagine “build an invincible robot army” is somewhere on the long-term business plan.
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