Quadruped CHEETAH robot to outrun any human


March 3, 2011

Robotics company Boston Dynamics has been awarded a contract to develop a military quadruped cheetah-like robot, capable of running faster than any human (Image: Boston Dynamics)

Robotics company Boston Dynamics has been awarded a contract to develop a military quadruped cheetah-like robot, capable of running faster than any human (Image: Boston Dynamics)

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It would be scary to be chased by a military robot. It would also be scary to be chased by a cheetah. So, imagine what it would be like to have a military robotic cheetah sprinting after you. Such a scenario could one day be possible, as robotics company Boston Dynamics recently announced that America's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded it a contract to design and build such a ... critter. The contract also includes the creation of an agile, bipedal humanoid robot. It's hard to say which one might ultimately be creepier.

The CHEETAH robot will reportedly have four legs, a flexible spine, an articulated head/neck, and perhaps a tail. It will be able to run faster than any existing legged robot or human runner, make tight, zig-zagging turns in order to chase or evade, be able to accelerate very rapidly from a standstill, and stop just as quickly.

The other robot, ATLAS, "will walk like a man, using a heel-to-toe walking motion, long strides and dynamic transfer of weight on each step," according to Boston Dynamics VP of Engineering Rob Playter. It will have a torso, two legs and two arms, although spookily enough, there's no mention of a head. It will be able to turn sideways to squeeze through narrow passages, and use its hands for balance and support on rough terrain.

The machine will incorporate some of the advanced behaviors already used in PETMAN (pictured above), another anthropomorphic robot that the company previously developed for the US Army. Both CHEETAH and ATLAS will also build upon control software and mechanical and electrical systems designed for PETMAN, and for the company's quadruped pack horse-like BigDog military robot.

While the exact purpose of either robot hasn't been stated, Boston Dynamics did say that "In addition to military applications, such robots can be used in civil and commercial applications such as emergency response, firefighting, advanced agriculture and vehicular travel in places that are inaccessible to conventional wheeled and tracked vehicles."

Via Next Big Future

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Catalog of human population researchers found that humans are biorobots. Every human subtype structure has its own program and 3 manipulation modes. Any manipulation mode is someone\'s individual program.

Kate Bazilevsky

A cheetah without a tail is a cheetah with a disadvantage. They use that tail as a counter-balance when running, to make quicker turns, and even to stop. That lets me know that the designers of this robot are not really serious about this plus no mention of what tools they use when they catch up to the \"target\". No teeth, no claws, no guns, no explosives? Maybe it\'s just supposed to scare them to death or maybe tag them with a beacon so a bigger robot can find them or perhaps a smart bullet can find them instead? The whole idea behind a robot (at least a military one) is to save lives. Wouldn\'t a flying drone be a better platform? Faster, and could deliver that smart bullet or very small rocket! If it ever comes to that, friendlies better have a special identifier so robot doesn\'t make a mistake, errr excuse me, make a program error!

Will, the tink

\"That tail as a counter-balance when running, to make quicker turns, and even to stop. That lets me know that the designers of this robot are not really serious\"

OK, Will - let\'s get this straight - the concept rendering has a tail. The article mentions the robot possibly having a tail. Boston Dynamics is a multi-million dollar robotics company.

But because the article uses the word \'perhaps\', which is not a direct quote from anyone at BD, you\'ve decided the designers aren\'t serious about this? And maybe they don\'t mention the offensive capabilities because they either aren\'t allowed to discuss those aspects or it\'s not in scope for this iteration or they just haven\'t friggin decided yet!

Oh yeah, and we already have flying drones btw so maybe there\'s a different motivation for this design than aerial. How\'s the drone going to be at dragging somebody\'s ass out of a fire?

Wow, nice \"logic\"...


Since when can any mobile computer calculate in real-time and in 3D rough terrain and coordinate 4 limbs to run 1 MPH let alone ~20 MPH that a man can run?

Stuart Halliday

@Katia: Exactly the opposite. Very likely you can read \"perhaps\" as the army doesn\'t require it, but Boston Dynamics put it in the contract because they think it might be needed. Esp since the paragraph in question has a slightly different tone than the rest of the article -- likely it is cut directly from BD PR.

G Andrew Stone

\'Will, the tink\' your correct the tail is needed but Boston dynamics will also be considering the bob cat. That\'s tail less and has the same agility but not the speed. The weapons load out will be up to others. Vehicle designers do the same thing. The weapons mounts are generic and any weapon of a given weight and recoil will fit. The cheetah will probably be used to pre-place sensors and run optic fibres. It will run ammo and supplies across dangerous areas covered by enemy fire. Dogs were used in that function in WW1. It works. If eventually it is armed it will probably get a head mounted pistol or hip mounted tank like smoke launchers.

Wesley Bruce

How does this robot get up if it falls over on the side?

Hung Nguyen

OK I\'m a nerd but seriously doesn\'t ths remind anyone of Ravage from the Transformers? Also agree with the comments of how does it get up if it falls on its side?

Reece Agland

@Hung Nguyen \"How does this robot get up if it falls over on the side?\" well when I was 5 I had a toy car that was self righting so I dont see this being a problem for a multi million dollar robot.

Brian Callender

@Will, the tink - Nature evolved cheetahs such that the tail is used for stabilization. Nature evolved humans with a big brain that allows them to find many solutions to the same problem, most of which don\'t resemble nature at all. Nature hadn\'t yet thought of using a gyroscope or sliding weights in the hindquarters. There ya go... two quick solutions that keep all of the parts internal while doing the job as or more efficiently than a tail...

A MUCH MORE COMPLICATED TAIL ...instead of an easy, tried and true gyroscope and/or actuated sliding weights solution? Now I know that you are not really serious about designing most simplistically, efficiently, durably, unobtrusively and cost-effectively.

Nature has come up with optimal designs per its meandering evolutionary course. However, that doesn\'t mean that they are optimal compared to other designs conceived OUTSIDE of that meandering path. Though humans are part of nature, we evolved to accelerate, extend, and even replace nature\'s designs in novel ways.


@Hung Nguyen - @Reece Agland -

With a flexible spine, the robot could contort, build up torque and help to right itself with front legs then hind legs just like a dog... or cheetah. With a flexible (assuming also twistable) spine, the thorax and hindquarters can be made to be many degrees off axis. Picture a dog in slow motion: First, lying on its back, all legs in the air. It begins the motion of rotation of the thorax such that the forearms and front paws touch the ground. This rotation is a continuous twist from the neck down to the hind. As the twist continues to propagate, the dog pushes up swiftly and pivots on its front legs. The upward motion, pivot, twist, and now a slight downward arch of the spine allow the hindquarters to rise such that the hind legs naturally land beneath


Ya know guys (and gals), I think I might have spoken before brain was in gear here. Maybe I also was thinking too simplistically. Much smarter minds than mine have been put to work on this project I am sure. I still do picture the cheetah with teeth and claws though. Something like that running top speed at you would certainly take an enemy off their game. They don\'t have to be functional, just spread rumors that they are. Kind of like the shark teeth painted on front of WWII fighter planes just to look menacing! I can picture a robot like this dragging a wounded soldier out of harms way or delivering ammo or in a game of reverse fetch, delivering a grenade to the enemy ;-) Who knows what they will be doing but I bet whatever it is, it will be cool!

Will, the tink

The whole idea behind a robot (at least a military one) is to save lives.

Strange, I always thought the military was about killing people. Thanks for setting me straight.

Steve Bennett

Strange, I always thought the military was about killing people. Thanks for setting me straight.

Not even that. The job a soldier is expected to do, is die. And a robot like this will do that job better than any human possibly can.


@Grunchy. Not quite = A soldiers job is not to die for his country, but to make the enemy soldier die for their country.

Edwin Wityshyn

See this is how they start to take over the planet, because of there faster than any human quality if this thing goes beserk how are we going to be able to stop it?

Rose Kruger

It is far easier to design a defence to a device like this than design the device.Also , If they do a JD Power survey on these you know whose are going to keep running and whose will break down all the time.....


You know, I got to this page from the page talking about the robot that can throw cinder blocks. Now bear with me on this...So in 5 - 6 years we have all these "advanced" robots running around. Sure, great to have around. ALL sorts of industries!!!! People can relax!!! The machines will do the hard stuff. The more we are dependent on machines we are, I would think I don't know, education might go down further. Why learn math when you can a computer in you pocket? Why explore the ocean? The robots have have 3D cameras, you can explore from your armchair Why work on an oil rig? Let the machine work for free. We are all great.

What happens when Kim Jong Il realizes that robots are all wi-fi enabled? Do you REALLY want a robot that can run as fast as your car WITHOUT getting tired AAAAND it can throw sh*t? No thanks.

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