Robot makers at Boston Dynamics have unveiled their latest military-funded creation: a four-legged machine called WildCat that bounds and gallops across the ground in an uncannily animal-like way.
A new video shows off the robot's ability to run to at 16 mph (25 km/h) on flat surfaces. Boston Dynamics has not released much new information on their new bot, but a caption on the company's YouTube page says WildCat will eventually be able to run quickly over all types of terrain.
WildCat is a free-running version of one of Boston Dynamics' earlier quadruped creations called Cheetah, a frighteningly fast robot that could sprint, on a treadmill at least, up to 28.3 mph (45.5 km/h). That's 0.5 mph faster than Usain Bolt, the world's fastest man. Though WildCat is slower than its predecessor for now, it is does not need to be tethered to a treadmill to strut its stuff.
The new robot is being developed as part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Maximum Mobility and Manipulation, or M3, program, which seeks to overcome the current limitations that ground robots face in terms of agility. The hope is that if these robots become more mobile and flexible, they can be much more effective at assisting human soldiers on the ground in a wide range of missions.
Boston Dynamics has also built a four-legged, headless "LS3" robotic mule that can carry up to 400 pounds (181 kg) of equipment for soldiers on a 20-mile-long (32 kilometers) trek without refueling. That robotic packhorse was created as a quieter, faster and tougher version of the DARPA-funded "BigDog" robot made famous in viral videos showing it trudging through the woods and snow and staying upright even after being kicked by a person.