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The Six-Legged Outrunner Robot Can Tear Up The Race Track

Created by scientists at Robotics Unlimited (a spinoff of the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition) in Pensacola, Florida; Outrunner claims to be the world's first publicly-available, legged running robot. Currently, the company is attempting to raise money for the robot through a Kickstarter campaign.

"There is simply no other robot with such capabilities and so easy and fun to play with. All you need to do is press the accelerator and steer it wherever you want it to go; it's that easy." 

The energy-efficient machine - which, on closer inspection, kind of looks like the offspring of a spider and a tumbleweed -  can reach speeds of up to twenty miles per hour.  I'm still trying to decide if the robot looks cool or like a walking nightmare. 

I'll get back to you when I know.

Anyway, according to the developer, its design mimics the behavior of legged animals, displaying a similar step pattern and mass to length distribution. This allows it to move with greater speed, agility, and stability than many more complicated robots. Even better, it does so without requiring complicated hardware or software.  

‘By having a centre of mass lower than the leg axis of rotation, OutRunner robots exploit a buoyancy effect, making them inherently stable and eliminating the need for expensive sensors and complex control algorithms," reads the Kickstarter page. It continues on by explaining that the legs of the device are used as energy storage systems, allowing for the conservation of kinetic energy while the robot runs. 

Outrunner is equipped with an onboard gyroscope, accelerometer, and HD camera. Users can control it using either their smartphone or a remote control; a process which the designer claims is not dissimilar to steering a bike. The robot 'turns' by shifting its weight to one side or the other. 

When the product launches, there will be two different models - a Core Model which will retail at $299, and a performance model at $799. The Core Model boasts a battery life of one hour, with a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour. The Performance Model, meanwhile, can reach a speed of 20 miles per hour, with two hours of battery life and enhanced acceleration and steering. The former weighs in at 3 pounds and stands at 1.5 feet tall, while the latter measures 2 feet and weighs 5 pounds. Both the Core and Performance Model can be ordered with either six legs or twelve.

The Outrunner is expected to ship at some point in 2015, assuming the Kickstarter is a success. There'll also be a host of different hardware upgrades available in order to boost the robot's performance. I'm not really sure how practical the whole robot's going to be, but...at least it looks kinda cool, right? 

Or terrifying, maybe. Again, I haven't exactly decided yet. Maybe both?

Anyway, the firm plans to host a competition involving its running robots a few months after they hit the market. I'm not entirely certain what this contest will involve - after all, a machine like this can only do so much, right?