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Chinese retiree builds robotic horse

Su Daocheng, who says he is "addicted" to inventing, spent two months on the development of the petrol-powered beast.

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Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

You just can't keep an inventive mind down. Su Daocheng -- a 60-year-old retiree from Shiyan in the eastern Hubei province of Central China -- spends his spare time inventing things. You know, just normal things, like you'd find in any garage -- like a helicopter designed for the road or a mechanical elephant.

His latest invention is a petrol-powered rideable robotic horse, inspired by Three Kingdoms-era chancellor Zhuge Liang. Zhuge Liang is said to have invented some 1,800 years ago a steamed bread called mantou, the land mine and a mysterious transportation device called "wooden ox and flowing horse" (sometimes thought to be the wheelbarrow, although archaeological evidence dates the wheelbarrow at least a century earlier).

At any rate, Su's "horse" -- which took two months to build -- is a little more complex. It stands 1.5 metres high and two metres long, weighing in at 250 kilograms. It uses a recycled go-kart engine, which runs on petrol, powering the spring-loaded legs to move back and forth. Only the back legs propel the horse, though; the front is supported by wheels, and the front legs appear to move only for show.

While it looks like a bit of a bumpy ride, the aim of the horse isn't transportation. Rather, it seems to be designed to help farmers. The robotic horse would, Su claimed, cost less than a real horse, since it does not require the time spent on human care, or the money spent on feed -- which would be higher than the cost of the horse's fuel.