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Whoa: Boston Dynamics Announces New WildCat Quadruped Robot

A new robot from Boston Dynamics can run outdoors, untethered, at up to 25 km/h

2 min read
Whoa: Boston Dynamics Announces New WildCat Quadruped Robot

Boston Dynamics has just updated its YouTube channel with some new videos. One of them is an update on Atlas. Another is an update on LS3. And the third is this: WildCat, a totally new quadruped robot based on Cheetah, and out of nowhere, there's this video of it bounding and galloping around outdoors, untethered, at up to 25 km/h (16 mph). Whoa.

Here's the video caption:

WildCat is a four-legged robot being developed to run fast on all types of terrain. So far WildCat has run at about 16 mph on flat terrain using bounding and galloping gaits. The video shows WildCat's best performance so far. WildCat is being developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA's M3 program.

This video was only just posted (perhaps half an hour ago), and the Boston Dynamics website doesn't seem to have any additional information about the robot just yet.

While tonight's unveiling was somewhat of a surprise, we have been expecting this platform to show up at some point. A little over a year ago, when Boston Dynamics had Cheetah sprinting at over 45 km/h (28 mph), we learned that an untethered version called WildCat capable of running outdoors was in the works, and this is the concept image for that robot from September 2012:

That looks pretty close to the actual robot, doesn't it?

WildCat's current top speed of 25 km/h is significantly slower than Cheetah's 45 km/h, but we can only speculate as to whether that's a limitation imposed by the on-board power, the gait, or simply the fact that WildCat is (as far as we know) a newish robot that probably has a lot of refinement in its future. We also don't know how well WildCat might perform outside of a parking lot, or whether it's capable of the same sort of sensor-based obstacle avoidance as LS3 is.

Hopefully, we'll get more info on WildCat from Boston Dynamics in the next day or two, and we'll update this post as soon as we can.

[ Boston Dynamics ]

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How the U.S. Army Is Turning Robots Into Team Players

Engineers battle the limits of deep learning for battlefield bots

11 min read
Robot with threads near a fallen branch

RoMan, the Army Research Laboratory's robotic manipulator, considers the best way to grasp and move a tree branch at the Adelphi Laboratory Center, in Maryland.

Evan Ackerman

“I should probably not be standing this close," I think to myself, as the robot slowly approaches a large tree branch on the floor in front of me. It's not the size of the branch that makes me nervous—it's that the robot is operating autonomously, and that while I know what it's supposed to do, I'm not entirely sure what it will do. If everything works the way the roboticists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Md., expect, the robot will identify the branch, grasp it, and drag it out of the way. These folks know what they're doing, but I've spent enough time around robots that I take a small step backwards anyway.

This article is part of our special report on AI, “The Great AI Reckoning.”

The robot, named RoMan, for Robotic Manipulator, is about the size of a large lawn mower, with a tracked base that helps it handle most kinds of terrain. At the front, it has a squat torso equipped with cameras and depth sensors, as well as a pair of arms that were harvested from a prototype disaster-response robot originally developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a DARPA robotics competition. RoMan's job today is roadway clearing, a multistep task that ARL wants the robot to complete as autonomously as possible. Instead of instructing the robot to grasp specific objects in specific ways and move them to specific places, the operators tell RoMan to "go clear a path." It's then up to the robot to make all the decisions necessary to achieve that objective.

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