Defense Dept. Commissions ‘Cheetah’ Robot and Terminator-Like Droid; Hummingbird Drone Also in Works

Source: DailyNews, February 27, 2011

Wes Penre’s Comment: “Welcome to the Machine” (Pink Floyd, 1975). We will soon have to make our choice. The world will split into those who want to disappear into the machine world and nano technology, and those who are going back to Nature. For those who haven’t decided, it’s high time to start pondering issues like this.

The technology they are showing us here is Stone Age compare to what they really have. There is a possibility in the future when people may want to marry their robot. There’s also a big chance there will be a time when people decide that the virtual reality on the computers is richer and more exciting than the “real world”, and their consciousness merges with it. Is this what we want? There are whole civilizations out there where this has happened — this is their reality. “Teach Your Children Well” (Crosby, Stills & Nash).

Boston Dynamics' 'Cheetah' robot will be developed with a flexible spine and head. The company hopes it will eventually be able to sprint at speeds approaching 70 mph.
The Atlas, a human-like droid, will be able to walk through rough terrain, crawl and use its hands.A Massachusetts engineering firm known for creating futuristic military robots has received multimillion dollar contracts to develop two more battlefield bots for the Department of Defense.

Boston Dynamics, which in 2008 unveiled a four-legged robot called BigDog, has been tapped by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the DOD, to create a human-like robot and an agile, robotic Cheetah that developers said will eventually be able to run 70 mph.


The human-like bot, Atlas, will have two arms and legs, but no head, and be able to walk and jog upright, climb, squeeze through narrow alleyways and use its hands, Boston Dynamics said.

The Terminator-like droid would represent a step forward from Boston Dynamic’s current anthropomorphic robot, known at PETMAN, which is used to test chemical weapons protection suits for the Army.


The Cheetah will walk and sprint on four legs and will be designed to turn corners, zig-zag and start and stop on a dime.

Though the robocat will be able to run faster than humans and seems to be suited for chasing down enemy prey, the company said it was more interested in advancing the technology, rather than developing the robots’ battlefield responsibilities.

“They’re not so focused on what the ultimate use will be,” Marc Raibert, lead investigator of the Cheetah program and Boston Dynamics’ president, told the Boston Herald. “They’re most focused on developing the technology and seeing what uses they can be applied to.”

A tiny, drone aircraft designed to mimic a hummingbird, known as the "nano-hummingbird," on display during a briefing at the AeroVironment facility in Simi Valley, Calif.

Eventually, the robots would be used for “emergency response, firefighting, advanced agriculture and vehicular travel” in areas inaccessible to tanks, Humvees and other wheeled vehicles, the company said.

The first Cheetah model is due in 20 months, and engineers are hoping it will be able to run 30 mph.

The company’s BigDog turned heads three years ago when the company released videos showing it trotting over rocky and snowy terrain with a surprisingly lifelike gait.

The cyberbeast was designed to serve alongside soldiers as a robotic pack mule, with the ability to carry more than 300 pounds of military gear.

Boston Dynamics isn’t the only company developing robotic animals for use during warfare.

On Friday, a California company unveiled a tiny spy plane resembling a hummingbird.

The “nano-hummingbird,” developed by AeroVironment in Simi Valley, Calif., has a 6.5-inch wingspan and can record sights and sounds on a video camera in its stomach.

Developers said the miniature craft is designed to hover in the air and gather intelligence without the enemy noticing.

With News Wire Services