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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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RE: Changes nothing
By Reclaimer77 on 9/17/2012 1:39:32 PM , Rating: 2
Actually I kinda of don't agree with you. In the context of guerrilla warfare, low-tech insurgent solutions have send hundreds of M1-A1's back to the States heavily damaged. To be repaired or scrapped.

It doesn't take a tactical genius to hide in a alley or stairway, wait for a tank to pass, then pop out and RPG it. With one of THESE things roaming around waiting to pounce on your ass, yeah, suddenly it's not so easy.

Also searching and clearing buildings, going room to room in urban environments, have proved to be very dangerous and lethal for our troops. If one of these were ever perfected and put into action, again, the game would be changed in our favor.

I'm not sure the author literally meant to imply winning footraces against military technology. But I could be wrong.

p.s Disappointed media of the 1995 film Screamers and it's "Autonomous Mobile Swords" weren't used for the article :P

RE: Changes nothing
By lightfoot on 9/17/2012 2:19:50 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't take a tactical genius to hide in a alley or stairway, wait for a tank to pass, then pop out and RPG it. With one of THESE things roaming around waiting to pounce on your ass, yeah, suddenly it's not so easy.

You're absolutely right. But then you're talking about hiding and not running. Stealth and size become much more important factors in these conditions, not speed.

This technology could replace the use of K9 units in combat and police forces, but in those cases mobility (getting into difficult areas) and remote sensing are far more important than raw speed.

This technology is fantastic, but emphasizing the speed of the technology seems to be missing the point of its advantages.

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