A new generation of robots is racing to outpace Olympic sprinters and animals like Cheetahs


Robot can run almost as fast as the world’s new marathon record holder – as next generation of droids aim to outpace Olympians and animals

  • Sophisticated robots continue to steadily outpace humans on land  
  • Bots include Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah and a mechanical bipedal runner 
  • The fastest of their kind, the HexRunner, clocked in at over 32 MPH 

A new generation of dexterous robots are making strides faster than ever before – literally.

Advances in both mechanics and intelligent software designed after members of the animal kingdom – including humans – are pushing an increasing number of robotics companies closer to parity with the fastest members of their kind.

As reported by Popular Mechanics, organizations like the Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) have been plucking away at making a robot called the Planar Elliptical Runner (PER) – a bipedal bot that relies mostly on mechanics.

PER (pictured above) can travel at 12 MPHan runs on just two legs using a mostly mechanical design

PER (pictured above) can travel at 12 MPHan runs on just two legs using a mostly mechanical design

A motor on PER drives the bots propulsion and moves its legs in an oval motion that help to balance weight and prevent it from tipping over.

As The Verge notes, that locomotion is achieved without the use of sophisticated machine-vision that has found its way into other mobile robots. 

PER is capable of traversing land at speeds of up to 12 MPH, just a hair shy of the fastest marathon sprinter ever recorded, Eliud Kipchoge, who hit 13 MPH. 

Other bots have found success mimicking members of the animal kingdom, opting for an extra set of legs in their design. 

Among the four-legged varieties of agile bots is Boston Dynamic’s Cheetah, which uses an animal-like design for a machine that can not only travel 28.3 MPHbut jump over obstacles. 

This bot beats the fastest-ever sprinter, Usain Bolt, buy a slim margin of .5 MPHs.


Other robots have taken a less traditionally biological approach to design that has helped to set records in the world of robotic locomotion. 

Another robot designed by IHMC called the HexRunner users a wheel design with rotating legs that has helped it take the number one spot among its kin of 32 MPH.

Like PER, HexRunner, which is a 6-foot-tall bot with two parallel sets of legs runs mechanically without complex software, making it a feat of design over computer programming and architecture. 

As noted by Popular Mechanics, some futurists believe that bots like the aforementioned could be used in a variety of arenas including manual labor or more disconcertingly, warfare. 

One thing is for sure according to futurist Sörman-Nilsson who spoke to Popular Mechanics: when it comes to superiority, it’s not a matter of how but when for robots.

‘We are living at a time when the rate of change has never been this fast and will never be this slow again,’ Sörman-Nilsson tells Popular Mechanics. 

‘We are living in exponential times. Robots are amongst the avant-garde technologies driving this development.’

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