A year ago, Boston Dynamics showed video of their quadruped robot, Cheetah, hitting speeds of 29 mph on a treadmill. Cheetah couldn’t keep up with its namesake, but it's speedier than Usain Bolt, the fastest human sprinter.
Back then, it was plugged in and supported by a boom. No more. Cheetah’s off the treadmill and in the parking lot. Equipped with a roll cage, an onboard engine, and a new name—meet Cheetah’s robotic offspring, WildCat.
WildCat is an early model for field testing. It sports a noisy combustion onboard engine, not unlike early field tests on pack robot, AlphaDog. And though its roll cage looks robust and capable of taking a fall (as it does in the video), WildCat’s handlers are keeping a leash on it. The robot's top speed, so far, is 16 mph.
But WildCat doesn’t look slow. And enabled by an articulated spine and biomimetic stride, its two gaits—galloping and bounding—are smooth, as is its ability to turn. Eventually, WildCat’s speed and maneuverability will be put to use in "emergency response, humanitarian missions, or other useful military applications."
Did we mention Boston Dynamics has been a wealth of video fun of late? They also released an update on their their well-known four-legged robot, LS3.
LS3 is a plodding junker in comparison to the zippy WildCat. But it’s a lot quieter these days, and much closer to seeing field duty. The robot is well into 18 months of field testing at a number of US military bases.
According to Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, “The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal.” The robot is currently working on “visually guided following” and “GPS guided maneuver." The soldier’s still boss, but he can set it and forget it on long marches as LS3 faithfully totes up to 400 lbs over 20 miles.
Like previous videos, LS3 impressively handles uneven terrain, including uphill and downhill sections in the uncontrolled outback of Twentynine Palms, California. Meanwhile, back home in Boston they did a little Star Wars reenactment in the snow.