DARPA: Our Robot Cheetah Is Faster Than Usain Bolt

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Sept. 5 2012 6:13 PM

DARPA: Our Robot Cheetah Is Faster Than Usain Bolt

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Could Usain Bolt be outrun by a robot?

Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/GettyImages

After Usain Bolt dominated the Summer Olympics, Slate’s Josh Levin wrote that for an encore, the unsurpassed Jamaican sprinter should try a new event, like the long jump or the 400 meter.

Here’s another possibility: Make like Garry Kasparov and go up against a machine.

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In a video released today, DARPA brags that its Cheetah robot, built by Boston Dynamics, can now best Bolt, reaching 28.3 miles per hour—just a hair faster than Bolt’s peak 27.78, which he ran in 2009. But DARPA admits that its robot had a “slight advantage” because it’s on a treadmill, not a real track.

Perhaps Bolt should take this gloating from DARPA as a challenge and go treadmill-to-treadmill with the Cheetah bot.

The robot’s not as fast as a real cheetah—yet.

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.