Watch "Cheetah" Robot Shatter World Record for Land Speed

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
March 5 2012 12:51 PM

Watch "Cheetah" Robot Shatter World Record for Land Speed

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A cheetah with a radio collar in Maun, Botswana.

Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Robots with legs have long been slow, lumbering machines. But the aptly named Cheetah robot, created by Boston Dynamics in partnership with DARPA, is a fast step in a new direction. In the video below, the machine reaches 18 miles per hour on a laboratory treadmill.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about this is that the previous world record for land speed by a legged robot was set in 1989. It took more than 20 years to topple.

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The video's description explains:

The robot's movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does. 

The current version of the Cheetah robot runs on a laboratory treadmill where it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump, and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. Testing of a free-running prototype is planned for later this year. 

While the M3 program conducts basic research and is not focused on specific military missions, the technology it aims to develop could have a wide range of potential military applications.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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