Military funds robot that can run faster than Usain Bolt

By DEBORAH NETBURN | Los Angeles Times | Published: September 7, 2012

DARPA's robotic cheetah has sprinted past another speed milestone: The four-legged robot can now officially run faster than Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world.

Chalk one up for robots. Humankind, you appear to be losing your supremacy.

A new video released by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency shows the robot, inspired by the anatomy of a cheetah, running as fast as 28.3 mph before it trips and falls on what would be its face, if it had one.

If it's any consolation, the robo-cheetah is only a bit faster than the human speed record holder: Bolt set the mark at 27.78 mph in 2009, during a 100-meter sprint.

And robo-cheetah has a way to go before it can outrun a real, living, breathing cheetah. A cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo was recently clocked at 61 mph.

It should also be noted that the robo-cheetah has only been tested on a treadmill in a lab. It doesn't carry its power source, and it has a boom-like device that holds it up and keeps it in the center of the treadmill.

DARPA said it will be testing out a prototype of the robotic cheetah on natural terrain sometime next year. It is unlikely that the robot will be able to maintain its indoor speeds when it has rocks and roots and ditches to contend with.

But the question remains, how long will nature beat mechanics? After all, just six months ago, DARPA was proudly announcing that an earlier incarnation of the robo-cheetah was running at "record-breaking speeds" of 18 mph.

Robots appear to be catching up, fast.


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