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  (Source: DARPA)
Robot will see testing "in the field" next year

For those who fear that one day our robotic contraptions may turn on us, this is very bad news.

The U.S. Military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has paired with Boston Dynamics to create the "cheetah bot", a headless robot that could one day stalk enemies on the battlefield.

The robot has been steadily progressing through treadmill testing.  It recently surpassed the world's fastest human -- six-time Olympic gold-medalist Usain Bolt.  Mr. Bolt had set a high mark for humans at 27.78 miles per hour for his fastest 20 meter split.  But the cheetah bot easily blew by that at 28.3 mph.

In other words, running from this killing machine when it one day hits the battlefield may not be an option.

Fortunately, the tech is a long way from being battle-ready.  While field tests on natural terrain are planned for next year, researchers are still working to perfect the robot's balancing algorithms and come up with an alternative to the current power source -- an off-board hydraulic pump.


Gill Pratt, DARPA program manager, is bullish these obstacles can be overcome, stating, "Cheetahs happen to be beautiful examples of how natural engineering has created speed and agility across rough terrain. Our Cheetah bot borrows ideas from nature’s design to inform stride patterns, flexing and unflexing of parts like the back, placement of limbs and stability. What we gain through Cheetah and related research efforts are technological building blocks that create possibilities for a whole range of robots suited to future Department of Defense missions."

A DARPA press release suggests the cheetah robot could one day be used for "emergency response, humanitarian assistance, and other defense missions".  It's up to our imaginations what those "other defense missions" might include, but it's likely they're not exactly pacifistic.

The good news?  The robotic war-dog is still much slower than a real life cheetah, which can run at up to 61 mph.

A minor aside -- the robot bears an eerie similarity to the robotic "greyhounds" in Absolut Vodka's commercial, which features beats from the Swedish House Mafia.  


Perhaps the advertisers were inspired by the DARPA program?

Sources: DARPA, YouTube



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Same problem as every other robot?
By Connoisseur on 9/17/2012 10:49:25 AM , Rating: 3
How can they begin field testing? This thing is mounted to external hydraulics. It's got exactly the same problems as any other human/animal-like robot developed:
1)No adequate miniature/portable power source.
2)No adequate servos and/or hydraulics that are portable yet strong and fast enough to operate the limbs.

How could they possibly "field test" this thing as a usable product? It turns out mimicking nature with robots is a royal PITA.




RE: Same problem as every other robot?
By kattanna on 9/17/2012 12:03:36 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
come up with an alternative to the current power source -- an off-board hydraulic pump.


pretty much.. when i saw that part i was like.. meh

it is a neat test bed model, but nothing more.


RE: Same problem as every other robot?
By Shig on 9/17/2012 12:41:09 PM , Rating: 3
There's a video of them field testing it outside without hydraulics attached in this article. (video towards bottom)

http://singularityhub.com/2012/09/12/new-video-of-...


RE: Same problem as every other robot?
By Misty Dingos on 9/17/2012 12:56:04 PM , Rating: 2
This is a possible replacement for the hydraulics.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electroactive_polymer...

Power is a real issue for any new machine. I don't have an easy answer for it. I can tell you though if we don't try to find an answer then the middle of the 21st century will look a lot like the end of the 20th century just with about 8 billion more people in the show. If we don't support people with vision we will simply muddle through years until you end up dead and the recycle your corpse for fertilizer.

They want to get this thing into the real world so that they can break it and make it better. This is the same process they took with the Big Dog robot and where is it now? That's right it is entering field testing with the USMC. A modern pack mule for 21st century battlefields. Or any disaster zone.


RE: Same problem as every other robot?
By 91TTZ on 9/17/2012 2:39:23 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
This is the same process they took with the Big Dog robot and where is it now? That's right it is entering field testing with the USMC. A modern pack mule for 21st century battlefields. Or any disaster zone.


Can you give me an example of something the Big Dog can do better than a real pack mule? I'm willing to bet that the real pack mule costs less, can run faster, is more durable, and can outperform the robot version.


By MadMan007 on 9/17/2012 3:07:01 PM , Rating: 3
A pack mule doesn't result in big fat defense contracts.


By superPC on 9/17/2012 5:25:10 PM , Rating: 2
voice command (a mule might respond to other type of command but not as efficient), tracking capabilities (how a mule use this capability is outside of our ability to control them), repairable (a mule can die), can become a gun platform (unless you put a man on a mule, it's not likely we'll ever mount a gun on mules). Should i go on? there's a reason assembly lines now uses robots and people...


By Jaybus on 9/17/2012 2:32:50 PM , Rating: 3
The hydraulics could be accomplished, even at the cost of adding more mass, if there was an adequate power source available. The lack of a portable power source is the more fundamental problem. Of course, it can run a bit on battery power, but like electric vehicles, not very far or very long.


RE: Same problem as every other robot?
By Arsynic on 9/17/2012 3:33:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
How could they possibly "field test" this thing as a usable product? It turns out mimicking nature with robots is a royal PITA.


Well, in that case, they could simply leave a pile of parts in a basket and perhaps it will involve into something over a few million years...


By rbuszka on 9/17/2012 10:45:37 PM , Rating: 2
Your lack of understanding of evolutionary processes are a pathetic insult to mankind's advanced scientific understanding.

You entirely forgot, they'd have to shake the basket.

(j/k)


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