Military commissions cheetah, humanoid robots

Boston Dynamics is working on bipedal and quadraped robots for DARPA. Forget about outrunning them. Just pray they stay on our side.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
The U.S. military is finally building a robo-cat. Boston Dynamics
Will Atlas resemble Boston Dynamics' Petman humanoid? All it needs is the Terminator skull. Boston Dynamics

Don't believe in Skynet? Well, the U.S. military has reportedly commissioned the production of bipedal soldiers and quadruped robots that can outrun human beings.

Boston Dynamics, known for its BigDog canine bot, is working to develop a humanoid robot called Atlas and an animal-like running robot called Cheetah. The robo-cat is due to arrive in 20 months.

The company's efforts are part of multimillion-dollar contracts with DARPA over a four-year period, according to a Boston Herald report.

Initially, Cheetah is supposed to achieve speeds of up to 30 mph. Presumably it will be a lot stealthier than the noisy BigDog, seen in the vid below. No word yet on whether it will fold into a cassette tape like the old-school Decepticon Ravage of Transformers fame.

"There's no fundamental reason why it can't go as fast as the animals (60 to 70 mph), but it will take a while to get there," Boston Dynamics President Marc Raibert was quoted as saying in Boston Herald report.

Atlas, meanwhile, will have two arms, two legs, and walk upright like the company's anthropomorphic Petman prototype. It will be designed to squeeze into narrow spaces and use its hands to move quickly over rough terrain.

The robots are being developed under DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program, which seeks to "create a significantly improved scientific framework for the rapid design and fabrication of robot systems and greatly enhance robot mobility and manipulation in natural environments."

Aside from military applications, the robots could be used in agriculture, fire-fighting, and emergency services.

And, of course, acting in Terminator and Transformers films when they're not hunting humans.