Boston Dynamics' Cheetah Robot Now Faster than Fastest Human

Quadruped robot blows past Usain Bolt with a new top speed of 28.3 mph

2 min read
Boston Dynamics' Cheetah Robot Now Faster than Fastest Human

Boston Dynamics' Cheetah robot has just set a new record for legged robots by sprinting at 28.3 mph. This, incidentally, is also faster than Olympic (human) champion Usain Bolt, who set the world record for the 100 meter dash with a speed of 27.8 mph back in 2009. Yes, this means that now there is officially no escape from a robot cheetah on a treadmill. You've been warned.

To boost Cheetah's speed, Boston Dynamics "refined the control algorithms that coordinate the robot's leg and back motions and increased the installed power." Making the robot faster isn't just a matter of cranking up the power and increasing leg speed, but rather involves a biologically-inspired choreography of interactions between the robot's feet, legs, and back.

Cheetah, of course, is not running outdoors, where it would have to deal with wind resistance. It's also relying on off-board power, and without that boom in place, it would likely fall over, meaning that if you find yourself being chased by the current version of this robot, a simple movement to the left or right should stymie it completely whether you're Usain Bolt or not. With this in mind, Boston Dynamics concedes that "Bolt is still the superior athlete," but perhaps not for long: this is by no means the final version of Cheetah, and Boston Dynamics is currently creating a new version of the robot called WildCat that will be running outdoors as of early next year.

This robot will be untethered (looks like it's probably powered by a gasoline engine like AlphaDog) and it will also be able to, you know, turn. Boston Dynamics isn't stopping at 28.3 mph, either: we know they've had their eye on 50 mph for a while, and the top speed of a biological cheetah (approximately 70 mph) may eventually be within reach. We're not sure when this will be, but considering that Cheetah made it from a top speed of 18 mph in March of this year to 28 mph less than five months later, we can't imagine it'll be long enough for us to get comfortable with the idea of being chased down (and possibly eaten) by a robotic quadruped.

[ Boston Dynamics Cheetah ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

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A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof
DarkGray

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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