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Monday, February 28, 2011

High-Speed ‘Cheetah’ Robot: The Terminator for the present?

Wild Future Weapon: Army’s High-Speed ‘Cheetah’ Robot Would ‘Chase Human Prey’

You can run but you can’t hide, the saying goes. But what if you had a robot that could outrun enemy soldiers or, better yet, hunt them down?

That might soon be the case if the Army’s latest, futuristic weapon turns out to be a success. It’s called the “cheetah,” and Boston-based Boston Dynamics has a goal of designing it to match the speed of its animal kingdom counterpart — 70 mph.

“As the name implies, Cheetah is designed to be a four-legged robot with a flexible spine and articulated head (and potentially a tail) that runs faster than the fastest human,” Wired reports. “In addition to raw speed, Cheetah’s makers promise that it will have the agility to make tight turns so that it can ‘zigzag to chase and evade’ and be able to stop on a dime.”

But 70 mph could be a little ways off. For now, the Daily Mail says, designers are focusing on achieving more school-zone speeds of 20 to 30 mph in the next 20 months.

The robot isn’t without some controversy. As the Mail points out, the Department of Defense isn’t quite sure what purpose the machine will serve yet, which raises some questions about its necessity.

“[The Department of Defense is] not so focused on what the ultimate use will be,” Marc Raibert, lead investigator on the project and president of Boston Dynamics told the Boston Herald. “They’re most focused on developing the technology and seeing what uses they can be applied to.”

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