Headless robot cheetah breaks speed record

Headless robot cheetah breaks speed record

Robotics takes a step forward, but what does it mean?

A headless robot called Cheetah has set a new world speed record for legged robots. How fast did it go? A mighty...18 miles per hour!

That might not sound particularly impressive, but according to scientists, it's incredibly difficult to make fast-moving robots with legs. Even our fastest runner, Usain Bolt, only manages 23 miles per hour. That means Cheetah can outrun most of us.

Cheetah was built by Boston Dynamics and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as part of a project to create robots that move like real animals.

Unsurprisingly, Cheetah the robot moves in a similar way to real cheetahs.  The robot flexes and un-flexes its back to increase the length of its stride, just like a real cheetah.

Cheetah hasn't been tested outside the lab yet, so scientists don't know exactly how it will perform in difficult conditions.

Another of Boston Dynamic's robots, Big Dog, has been tested in the real world. Impressively, it can keep its balance if pushed and even walk on snow and ice. Have a look at Big Dog in action:

What are these robots for?

DARPA want to design robots that can help the US army. Potential uses for these robots include defusing roadside bombs, navigating around hazards on battlefields and carrying heavy loads.

The US army currently use robots to defuse some explosives, but the capabilities of robots are limited at the moment. Is Cheetah the robot one step closer to robots fighting in battle alongside soldiers?

Many scientists are concerned about the ethics of using robots in war zones. At the moment robots are limited to carrying cargo or removing explosives. Despite major advances in robotics over the past five years, it is unlikely that'll we'll be turning over control over life-or-death decisions to robots any time soon.

Professor George Pullen, a former DARPA director, told news.com.au that "There is a general unwillingness to turn lethality over completely to machine intelligence. Trusting an automated system to make life and death decisions is not something that comes naturally to the war fighter. It is inevitable that things will progress in that direction but for right now they like to see humans in the loop."

What do you think about using robots in war zones? Is it always a good thing? Or are there times when only humans should be in control? To find out more, have a look at the videos and pictures on the Red Cross' Robots in War website.

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