A cheetah-inspired robot is now able to run faster than Usain Bolt. The four-legged machine broke the previous land speed record for a robot just this past March, at which time we wrote:
Its top running speed of 18 mph (29 kph) is faster than the average human jogger, but still lags behind top human speeds of nearly 28 mph (45 kph) — perhaps a relief for anyone fearing a world where robots can outrun their human overlords.
So much for that.
The cheetah bot is now able to run at 28.3 mph (45.5 kph), which is 0.5 mph faster than Usain Bolt's fastest 20 meter split, noted Boston Dyanmics, the company developing the robot in conjunction with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Getting the mechanical cheetah up to this speed required researchers to improve the computer instructions that control its legs and back, whose flexible design are key to its speed, IEEE Spectrum reported.
A few important limitations keep this version of the Cheetah stuck in lab, for now. It uses an outside power source that it does not carry. It relies on a tether to keep it upright. Early next year, however, Boston Dynamics plans to perform outdoor tests of an untethered version, called WildCat.
The Cheetah is one of several animal-inspired robot designs that DARPA has funded, in hopes of creating a mechanical helper that is able to walk and work alongside human soldiers.