Check that image out. Looks innocuous enough, right? Well, wait until you see this thing in
motion. Quite scary. But, scariness aside, there is something to say about the WildCat
robot. It may just be the way to cover long distances across all sorts
of terrain at a rather rapid pace.
Whoa! Picture that coming at you at night! All it needs is glowing red eyes. At least you could hear it coming. And why does it look like it's running backwards?
This is the WildCat, a robot designed by Boston Dynamics with funding from DARPA.. The WildCat stands apart from many robots in that it is not chained to a control tether. It is fueled on gasoline--sort of like a giant four-legged lawn mower. While still in development, this mechanical quadraped can carry up to 400 pounds and can currently gallop at 16 miles-per-hour on flat terrain. The goal is to hit 50 miles-per-hour--and not just on flat surfaces, but on all types of terrain. Something like this fictional robot from Red Planet, but hopefully without the urge to kill:
Sorry it was all in French--but it had the best footage of AMEE, the panther-like robot, which you have to admit is pretty cool.
DARPA and Boston Dynamics have other robots in design, including BigDog, which is designed more for stability than speed.
You know, while I think these innovations in robotic design are a step forward, they still sort'a creep me out. The movement dynamics are very natural (which is, of course, why they work so well). But... I can't place my finger on it. It's sort of like seeing a car with human legs on it or something. Regardless of my thoughts, these are intriguing progressions toward a multi-terrain robot that will have several applications in the future.
Video and photos of WildCat and Big Dog courtesy of Boston Dynamics.