Thinking Tech

Cheetah, the world's fastest legged robot

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The world's fastest legged robot mimics the physiology of a cheetah.

Watch the video below as the fastest legged robot reaches a speed of 18 mph, smashing the world record of 13 mph for a legged robot made more than 20 years ago in 1989.

This super fast robot, Cheetah, is under development at Boston Dynamics, the maker of the eerily realistic Big Dog, among other creepy and amazing military robots. With funding from DARPA, the mad scientists at the U.S. defense arm, Cheetah plans to help in a variety of military operations.

Boston Dynamics is using biomimicry to full effect in Cheetah—as you can see in the video above—where the machine is gaining stride by using its back similar to how an actual cheetah reaches its crazy fast sprints. A cheetah's spine is unusually flexible and it curves or flexes with each stride, acting like a spring for its hind legs. A boom-like appendage keeps robotic Cheetah on track much like how the large, long tail of our real cheetah acts as a rudder and counterweight to keep it on track during fast turns, when running at a mind-boggling 70 mph.

This prototype above is powered by “an off-board hydraulic pump” but a free and mobile prototype of Cheetah is due out later this year.

[via DARPA]

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Christie Nicholson

Contributing Writer

Christie Nicholson produces and hosts Scientific American's podcasts 60-Second Mind and 60-Second Science and is an on-air contributor for Slate, Babelgum, Scientific American, Discovery Channel and Science Channel. She has spoken at MIT/Stanford VLAB, SXSW Interactive, the National Science Foundation, the National Research Council, the Space Studies Board and Brookhaven National Laboratory. She holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Dalhousie University in Canada. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure