WASHINGTON, October 7 (RIA Novosti) – It sounds like a motor scooter, looks like a metallic wasp that stands on large matchstick legs, and puffs out blue smoke when it gets going: it’s the WildCat, the latest robot developed for the military by US company Boston Dynamics, and if it doesn’t scare the heeby-geebies out of you, it will probably amaze you as it outruns and outmaneuvers you on rough terrain.
In a test run, WildCat clocked about 16 miles per hour (26 kilometers per hour) on flat terrain using bounding and galloping gaits. The robot is so new that Boston Dynamics has not yet added information about it to the company’s website, but this video clip, showing the new ‘bot during a test-run in a Massachusetts parking lot, which some locals will insist is rough terrain, was posted several days ago on YouTube.
Boston Dynamics is developing the WildCat with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program.
One of the main goals that DARPA, which is part of the US Defense Department, gives developers who work on the M3 program is to develop robots that are able to operate in tough environments similar to those where military personnel often find themselves.
WildCat looks like it could be the offspring of two other robots in the Boston Dynamics stable: BigDog, which walks, runs, climbs and carries heavy loads on rough terrain, and the Cheetah, which last year clocked 28.3 miles per hour (45.5 kilometers per hour) on a treadmill.
Unlike Cheetah, which needed a tether to stay on the treadmill, WildCat is autonomous.
In addition to its four-legged robots, Boston Dynamics has invented a small, wheeled robot that leaps onto the rooftops of buildings with a single bound, and a humanoid robot called Atlas that can walk across challenging terrain and stay upright, even when standing on one leg and being hit from the side by a 20-pound (9 kilogram) weight.
Atlas is being developed for DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, which is holding trials in December.