Cheeta concept drawing (via Boston Dynamics)
Robots are best known for their superhuman strength or computational prowess but not necessarily their speed. That’s all about to change with the introduction of DARPA’s new M3 (Maximum Mobility and Manipulation) robot. Called the Cheetah, the robot is the brainchild of Boston Dynamics and can reach speeds of 18 mph, which is a world record for multi-legged robots (unseating the previous contender from MIT). The Cheetah is designed after the animal of the same name and uses a mechanism, powered by a hydraulic pump, which flexes its back making the legs move (much like a muscle). Increasing the flexibility rate results in faster movement of the legs, but the robot needs to be held in place and run on a treadmill to do so at the moment. Outdoor testing without a leash will be done this year (2012) according to Boston Dynamics for further development. DARPA is funding the Cheetah and plans to adapt it to EOD teams, as well as other military applications, to help with IED disarmament and removal in rugged terrain that other robots ca not traverse. Sounds like a good project that would help save the lives of our ground-pounders. I just hope the final rendition of the Cheetah look like the concept graphic shown above.
See some of Boston Dynamics other robots: