Print 27 comment(s) - last by Jeffk464.. on Sep 18 at 12:48 AM

  (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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I question the usefulness of some of these projects.
By 91TTZ on 9/17/2012 2:36:19 PM , Rating: 2
I remember reading up on that BigDog project with the creepy dog/horse like robot. They wanted it to be a "pack animal" that could walk alongside troops and carry their supplies. One of the drawbacks is that in order to make enough energy to propel it, it needs a loud 2-stroke gasoline engine.

Then I thought about how it would compare to an actual pack animal like a real horse.

Development costs:
Horse: Evolution (free)
BigDog: $32 million so far

Cost per unit:
BigDog: probably hundreds of thousands
Horse: about $1000

In addition, the horse fuels itself when it needs refueling (eat grass), it's easy to program (train), it heals itself when it gets some wear and tear, and it reproduces for free. Also, if it gets stolen, the enemy gets a horse, they don't gain access to millions of dollars of R&D work.

By Iketh on 9/17/2012 6:28:53 PM , Rating: 2
I hear you, but you have to include the advantages of the robot also.

-No emotional attachment
-No need to worry about how it's feeling (ie. overworked)
-Can work in grassless/waterless environments

These are just a few examples.

By Jeffk464 on 9/18/2012 12:48:16 AM , Rating: 2
Ironically I think I read that the US has ditched all the high tech stuff and moved to using donkey's in the mountains of Afghanistan. Why, because it works.

"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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