Boston Dynamics, a renowned engineering and robotics company, has recently developed a galloping and bounding robot, called WildCat. A recent recording of the mechanized, free-running wonder was uploaded onto YouTube, showing it climbing to its feet, before performing a series of sprints and turns.
Boston Dynamics specializes in construction of advanced robotics and the design of human simulation. The company was founded by Marc Raibert and his colleagues, in 1992, who had spawned as an offshoot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Over the years, Boston Dynamics has crafted all manner of unique robotic designs, from RISE, a machine capable of ascending vertical surfaces, to the quirkily titled SquishBot, a robotic device that can transform its own shape to pass through confined spaces.
However, the company’s latest incarnation is the WildCat, described as a quadruped robotic machine, capable of reaching speeds of around 16 miles per hour.
Although details are scant, with Boston Dynamics’ website not having been updated with information on their latest design, the company has setup a YouTube page showcasing all of their amazing robots in action.
The YouTube description for WildCat claims that it is capable of successfully traversing, at high speed, “… on all types of terrain.” However, it’s not until the machine is placed on flat terrain, that WildCat really excels. Checkout the video to see WildCat majestically galloping and bounding around an MIT car lot, at high speeds.
At one point, WildCat even stumbled during one of its runs. However, the hardy machine was able to make a quick recovery.
WildCat is an improvement over the company’s Cheetah robot design; although Cheetah was much faster, zooming up to speeds of 28 mph, WildCat houses its own power source and does not need to be tethered to permit its operations.
Meanwhile, according to Geek, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had requested that Boston Dynamics create a bullet-proof version of their Legged Squad Support System (LS3). The mechanical beast, which harnesses terrain sensing and GPS capabilities to guarantee its successful navigation, was jointly funded by both DARPA and the United States Marine Corps.
Described as a four-legged robot that can operate over rough terrain, LS3 is capable of carrying a payload of up to 400 lbs, and can endure a journey distance of 20 miles before needing to be refueled. When witnessing the next video, it becomes clear that Boston Dynamics was not exaggerating when they said LS3 is “… designed to go anywhere Marines and Soldiers go on foot.”
It has been reported that DARPA has tasked Boston Dynamics with creating a near-silent, stealthy iteration of LS3, capable of withstanding gunfire; Boston Dynamics was, therefore, awarded an extra $10 million to do so, and was given a deadline of late March, 2015. It is also likely that WildCat could benefit from some of the planned revisions to LS3, particularly when it comes to noise.
Also of note, is Boston Dynamics’ Sand Flea robot, a small device that looks like a basic radio controlled car, which has been funded by the US Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF). Incredibly, Sand Flea can pounce 30 ft into the air, enabling it to gain access to hard to reach locations. The robot employs gyro stabilization to remain entirely level as it sails through the air.
The organization is also involved in human simulation technologies, used for a vast number of applications. Specifically, Boston Dynamics has created DI-Guy simulation software, introducing realistic character models that traverse a particular environment in a natural and fluid fashion. The software is purported to contain thousands of human, vehicle and prop models, and is used in a host of military simulations and training programs.
In an e-mail sent to the Los Angeles Times, Marc Raibert discussed some of the important implications of his company’s work. He suggested that WildCat could be used for firefighting and rescue efforts, and could even serve roles in agriculture and the military.
In the meantime, Boston Dynamics continues to improve the capabilities of their amazing free-running robotic designs. In the future, let’s hope these galloping and bounding wonders can be put to good use.
By: James Fenner