It won't be the cheetahs that kill us after all, but, apparently, the robotic dinosaurs. Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology's (KAIST) MSC Lab have designed a sprinting robot -- but, unlike Boston Dynamics' Cheetah, which is modelled on the fastest mammal alive, it takes its inspiration from the Cretaceous -- more specifically, the Velociraptor.And it's fast. Running on its two legs, the Raptor -- as it has been named (ironically dropping off the part of its name that means "fast") -- has been clocked in at 46kph (28.5mPH) on a treadmill. That's faster than Usain Bolt, the fastest known human, whose recorded top speed is 44.72 kph (27.44 mph), and nearly as fast as Cheetah, which was clocked at 47kph (29.3mph) in September 2012.
The two robots are very different. Cheetah is bulky and solid, where Raptor is lightweight and minimal. Instead of solid feet, it has two flexible carbon-fibre prosthetic blades on lightweight legs that have just one motor apiece. A tendon -- similar to the idea employed in Festo's robotic kangaroo -- allows the legs to reclaim some of the energy they expend.
It also has a tail, of sorts, to provide balance. Although it doesn't look like a Velociraptor's tail, it works in a similar manner: a pole fixed to the side of the robot swings as it runs, providing a counterweight to keep it from falling forwards or backwards.
Before you scoff that Cheetah is still faster than the Raptor, when Boston Dynamics released its first set of speed tests for the robot in March 2012, it was coming in at 30kph (18mph) -- just a few months before its Bolt-breaking speed.
Both robots need to be attached to a rail to keep from falling over, so we're not quite at the point where we need to be concerned about being chased by a roboraptor. Once the training wheels come off, though -- well, who's up for robot races instead?