Boston Dynamics, the company behind DARPA's most advanced legged robots such as PETMAN, BigDog, and Atlas, has unveiled the free-roaming version of their sprinting robot Cheetah. The new robot is called WildCat, and it's already galloping at speeds up to 16 mph (25.7 km/h) on flat ground.
Boston Dynamics is participating in DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which seeks to build robot systems that can move quickly in natural environments. To that end, it first developed a prototype called Cheetah that broke all speed records for legged robots last year. Cheetah was capable or reaching 28 mph (45 km/h), but it was tethered to an external power source and had the benefit of running on a smooth treadmill while being partially balanced by a boom arm. At the time, Boston Dynamics said it was working towards a free-running version of the robot, but it wasn't until a few hours ago that they finally blew the lid on it.
WildCat not only gallops, but can bound and turn circles as well. And, when it loses its footing during the demonstration and nearly flips over, it comes to rest with all four feet on the ground not much worse for wear. Being that this is still fairly early in its development, the quadruped's powerful motors don't so much purr as scream, but as we've seen with Boston Dynamics' other robots they can dampen the noise later. For now, its work is focused on getting the robot up to speed.
Currently Boston Dynamics has yet to update its website with WildCat's technical details, but we'll keep you updated as they roll in. For now, enjoy the somewhat terrifying glimpse into the future in the following video:
The LS3 is also making progress
The company also shared a new video of its LS3 quadruped, or Legged Squad Support System, romping through the hills of Twentynine Palms, California. Unlike the WildCat, the LS3 doesn't move quite as fast, but that's because it can carry 400 lbs (181 kg) of gear. You can see that robot following a human leader up a steep, rock-strewn hill and plowing its way through a snowbank in the new video below.