Developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA, the four-legged Cheetah robot isn't quite as fast as its totemic animal, but it can still whip itself into a sprinty furor. In this video, the Cheetah cements its place as the fastest robot with legs to date.
Before Cheetah's record-breaking 18 mph gallop, the record was previously held by MIT's planar biped, which managed 13.1 mph in 1989.
So, let's put 18 miles per hour in context. It's fast for a robot, and pretty fast for a human, too. Usain Bolt, the fastest human we have, tops out at 27.79 mph, which he set during a 100-meter sprint in Berlin in 2009. He'd be able to outrun Cheetah for a short period, but wouldn't have the unlimited endurance of the machine. A natural cheetah can reach speeds of 70 mph.
In the near future, Boston Dynamics is focusing its efforts toward ramping up Cheetah's speed and getting it out into the field, according to a statement made in a press release:
"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."
Of course, taking the Cheetah outside provides a whole set of new challenges, as terrain isn't as predictable as the surface of a treadmill.