DARPA-funded Cheetah robot sets sprightly pace of up to 18 miles per hour. In another project, a robotic arm achieves human tasks autonomously.
Slideshow: Government Innovators
(clickimage for larger view and for full slideshow)
The Department of Defense's investment in robotics research is beginning to show signs of progress, with one of its robots achieving a record-breaking milestone, and another demonstrating it can autonomously perform human tasks.
A four-legged robot called Cheetah, developed with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funding by Boston Dynamics, has achieved a galloping speed of up to 18 miles per hour, a new land-speed record for legged robots, according to the agency.
DARPA posted a video of the galloping robot on its website. The previous record was 13.1 mph, set in 1989, according to the agency.
The agency attributed the robot's speed to its movements having been modeled on the actual cheetah, which is the world's fastest animal, and other speedy quadrupeds.
"The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does," according to DARPA.
The Cheetah that broke the record ran on a lab treadmill powered by an off-board hydraulic pump. It also used a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill, according to DARPA. However, the agency plans to test a free-running prototype later this year.
Boston Dynamics developed Cheetah as part of DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation (M3) program, which aims to create robots that can achieve unprecedented mobility and ability to perform human tasks.
Although the research itself is not particularly military oriented, the Department of Defense could use these robots to improve how it performs tasks in military engagements that would be dangerous or extremely difficult for humans, such as disposing of explosives.
Another project that's part of that program, Autonomous Robotic Manipulation (ARM), also is showing significant gains, the agency said.
In another video posted online, DARPA shows a robotic arm and hand from its ARM program autonomously performing 18 grasping and manipulation tasks using vision, force, and tactile sensing--including hanging up a telephone, turning on a desk light and drilling a hole into a block of wood with a drill.
DARPA is now turning its attention to the second phase of the ARM program, which will be to engage in more complex tasks that involve using two hands.
A year ago, DARPA consolidated and expanded robotics efforts under the M3 program umbrella, which has four parallel and concurrent development tracks: design tools, fabrication methodologies, control methods, and technology demonstration prototypes. The agency has contracted with different universities and companies to handle the work of each of the individual tracks.
How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)
InformationWeek Elite 100Our data shows these innovators using digital technology in two key areas: providing better products and cutting costs. Almost half of them expect to introduce a new IT-led product this year, and 46% are using technology to make business processes more efficient.
The UC Infrastructure TrapWorries about subpar networks tanking unified communications programs could be valid: Thirty-one percent of respondents have rolled capabilities out to less than 10% of users vs. 21% delivering UC to 76% or more. Is low uptake a result of strained infrastructures delivering poor performance?
Top IT Trends to Watch in Financial ServicesIT pros at banks, investment houses, insurance companies, and other financial services organizations are focused on a range of issues, from peer-to-peer lending to cybersecurity to performance, agility, and compliance. It all matters.
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of October 9, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."