Robotic Cheetah Breaks Land Speed Record

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Robots can walk like people, and on all fours. Now there's one that simulates the running motion of a cheetah.

It also manages to run pretty fast, up to 18 miles per hour. The previous speed record set by a robot, in 1989, was 13 miles per hour. Compared to people, that's still quite fast: Usain Bolt's record-breaking 100-meter run in 2009 clocked in at about 23 miles per hour.

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The robot was built by Boston Dynamics, which has been working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for some years on robots that move more like creatures in nature. The projects are all part of a Defense Department program called Maximum Mobility and Manipulation, or M3.

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The program itself is designed around basic research, rather than immediate applications. But some of the company's robots, such as the Big Dog and AlphaDog, are built with actual uses in mind.

Boston Dynamics didn't release details about the robot and neither did the Department of Defense. But from the video you can see that the robot lifts all four feet from the ground and arches its back as it makes longer strides.

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The robot doesn't run freely, yet. It's tethered to wires that deliver power and computer information. And it has to be tested in real-world conditions. The Big Dog, by contrast, is powered with a small gas motor (giving it a characteristic buzz) and could hold its balance if pushed.

Even so, these robots show we may be getting ever closer to the day when soldiers move into battle alongside robots –- an anime dream become real.

Photo credit: Boston Dynamics / DARPA

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