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DARPA’s Cheetah becomes fastest legged robot

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(Photo credit: DARPA)

By Bonnie Cha, CNET

DARPA is quickly becoming the supplier of my nightmares.

As if the monstrous AlphaDog wasn't intimidating enough, it now has a feline friend, the "Cheetah," that will certainly have you running for the hills. Chances are you won't be able to outrun it, though.

Created by Boston Dynamics, Cheetah is allegedly now the fastest legged robot on the planet. DARPA released a video today showing the bot running at various speeds on a laboratory treadmill, ultimately hitting its maximum speed of 18 mph. This breaks the previous land-speed record of 13.1 mph set back in 1989.

Engineers designed the Cheetah bot by patterning its movements after real fast-running animals, such as its namesake. By flexing and unflexing its spine, the four-legged droid is able to lengthen its stride and increase its running speed.

Back in February 2011 when the robot was first commissioned, Boston Dynamics President Marc Raibert said he saw no reason why the robot couldn't go as fast a real cheetah (up to 70 mph), but he admitted that this would take some time to achieve.

The Cheetah is part of DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which seeks to advance and improve robotic capabilities. Though the agency didn't provide any specific examples, a robot, such as Cheetah, could help in various military applications.

DARPA plans to test a free-running a prototype later this year.

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