September 6, 2012
DARPA’s Cheetah Robot Breaks Its Own Record
Watch the Video: DARPA´s Cheetah Bolts Past the Competition
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
In March, DARPA released a video of their Boston Dynamic´s Cheetah robot running on a treadmill and setting the land speed record for robots with legs, an admittedly short category.
Yesterday, DARPA announced that in just under 6 months, they´ve been able to successfully trump their own land speed record as well as someone else´s: One Olympic gold medal-winner Usain Bolt.
According to a DARPA statement, Bolt set the world record for fastest human in 2009, reaching top speeds of 27.78 miles per hour in a 20-meter portion of a 100-meter race. The Cheetah robot was able to reach top speeds of 28.3 miles per hour in a 20-meter span, though it was able to run on a treadmill in a lab rather than a track in front of thousands of spectators.
“Our real goal is to create a robot that moves freely outdoors while it runs fast," said Boston Dynamics chief robotic scientist Alfred Rizzi, in a statement to CNET.
"We are building an outdoor version that we call WildCat, that should be ready for testing early next year."
Using a series of hydraulic pumps and algorithms, Boston Dynamics – which is developing the Cheetah robot under DARPA´s Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program – has so far managed to achieve the record speeds while being stabilized in the center of a treadmill. Using cleverer algorithms and more powerful pumps, these researchers hope to increase the Cheetah´s speed once more on natural terrain, reaching speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, thereby making it one of the most terrifying robots of all time.
For the record, a recent natural-born Cheetah reached top speeds of 61 miles per hour at the Cincinnati Zoo.
According to DARPA, though setting land speed records is fun, their goal isn´t to be the fastest robot, but to understand how robots can be fast as well as effective.
“Modeling the robot after a cheetah is evocative and inspiring, but our goal is not to copy nature. What DARPA is doing with its robotics programs is attempting to understand and engineer into robots certain core capabilities that living organisms have refined over millennia of evolution: efficient locomotion, manipulation of objects and adaptability to environments,” said DARPA program manager Gill Pratt.
“Cheetahs happen to be beautiful examples of how natural engineering has created speed and agility across rough terrain. Our Cheetah bot borrows ideas from nature´s design to inform stride patterns, flexing and unflexing of parts like the back, placement of limbs and stability.”
Once fully completed, DARPA aims to use the WildCat robots to offer emergency response and humanitarian aid in places where normal human intervention might be too dangerous or very remote. This, of course, requires the use of moving legs to trek rough terrain.
DARPA´s concern with speed will allow these WildCat robots the ability to navigate such terrain quickly, without spending precious time running through algorithms as it discerns how to step over a fallen rock.
The lessons learned from the Cheetah robot will be applied to other missions and programs as well, says Pratt: “What we gain through Cheetah and related research efforts are technological building blocks that create possibilities for a whole range of robots suited to future Department of Defense missions.”
Boston Dynamics has also built another animal-themed robot called the Big Dog which is designed to carry gear and soldiers in and out of battle situations. Though much, much slower than the Cheetah, BigDog shares the same knack of looking very intimidating as it moves.