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DARPA's Cheetah Robot Lives Up to Name, Breaks 23-Year-Old Speed Record

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"We really want to understand the limits of what is possible for fast-moving robots.”

(Photo: Boston Dynamics)

The cheetah is the fastest animal on land and its robot equivalent is now no different. The "Cheetah" robot developed by Boston Dynamics and funded by DARPA has set a new speed record for legged robots on land.

Watch it run:

While this 18 mph feat may not seem too fast compared to the mammalian version that gallops up to 75 mph, the research team, according to IEEE Spectrum, is working on speeding Cheetah up in its effort to better understand robot speed:

“While 18 mph is a good start, our goal is to get Cheetah running much faster and outdoors,” said Dr. Alfred Rizzi, technical lead for the Cheetah effort and Chief Robotics Scientist at Boston Dynamics. “We designed the treadmill to go over 50 mph, but we plan to get off the treadmill and into the field as soon as possible. We really want to understand the limits of what is possible for fast-moving robots.”

IEEE Spectrum points out that Cheetah mimics the running movement seen in felines, horses and dogs not just by moving its legs but is using its back as well. The robot was developed as part of DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program, which "seeks to create and demonstrate significant scientific and engineering advances in robot mobility and manipulation capabilities":

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.

The previous record for legged robot speed, according to DARPA, was set in 1989 at 13.1 mph. While the current Cheetah prototype runs on a treadmill, DARPA said it expects a free-running version later this year.

IEEE Spectrum suggests military, emergency relief and disaster response as future uses for this type of robot.

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