Andy Greenberg

Andy Greenberg, Forbes Staff

Covering the worlds of data security, privacy and hacker culture.

3/05/2012 @ 3:02PM |44,188 views

Meet Cheetah, Boston Dynamics' Terrifyingly Fast Running Robot (Video)

A warning for anyone who imagines a Skynet-ruled world of robot domination: Don’t watch the video below. Or if you do, prepare for nightmares of being chased at 18-miles an hour by a gas-powered steely automaton.

Boston Dynamics, a Waltham, Massachusetts technology firm and DARPA contractor, announced Monday that it’s broken the speed record for legged robots. Its new four-legged creation is Cheetah, which can run at 18 miles an hour, far faster than the 13.1 miles per hour record set by MIT in 1989.

When I spoke with Boston Dynamics ten months ago, the company’s president Marc Raibert told me the firm was building a four-legged robot that would run at 20 mph by late 2012. It seems to be ahead of schedule. As well as hitting that 20 mph mark, the company also aims to take Cheetah out of the lab and onto other terrains. “While 18 mph is a good start, our goal is to get Cheetah running much faster and outdoors,” reads a statement from Boston Dynamics’ chief roboticist Alfred Rizzi. “We designed the treadmill to go over 50 mph, but we plan to get off the treadmill and into the field as soon as possible. We really want to understand the limits of what is possible for fast-moving robots.”

Boston Dynamics rose to fame with its four-legged cargo robot Big Dog, (also captured in a YouTube sensation here) which shows an uncannily life-like ability to walk over terrain and recover its footing even when it slips or is kicked. The firm followed up with Petman, a two-legged prototype that applies the same technology to human-style walking.

In both cases, as with Cheetah, Boston Dynamics’ unique approach was to aim for what it calls “dynamic stability.” Most robots aim to maintain their balance at all points in their movement. But Boston Dynamics’ creations, like humans or other legged animals, are constantly tipping forward, falling and regaining equilibrium with every step.

That approach has allowed them a level of mobility that leaves other robots in the dust. At this rate, it won’t be long before they leave flesh-and-blood animals in the dust, too.


Post Your Comment

Please or sign up to comment.

Forbes writers have the ability to call out member comments they find particularly interesting. Called-out comments are highlighted across the Forbes network. You'll be notified if your comment is called out.

  • Jacob Ford Jacob Ford 9 months ago

    So this is how I’m going to die..

    • Called-out comment
  • Brian Caulfield Brian Caulfield, Forbes Staff 9 months ago


    • Called-out comment
  • Ben Gable Ben Gable 9 months ago

    OK, Redstate survivalists…

    How is your “assault rifle” gonna stop this? How about a Hellfire missle from a drone? A “Big Dog” with some miniguns mounted to it?

    You can have your guns, but These Things are the DARPA projects that keeps me up at night.

    • Called-out comment
  • Reno J. Tibke Reno J. Tibke 9 months ago

    Old but related:
    PETMAN: Boston Dynamics Stumbles (HA!) into the Humanoid Android Pole Position –

    • Called-out comment
  • jrstern jrstern 9 months ago

    exsqueeze me, but isn’t this thing apparently running backwards?????

    • Called-out comment
  • Adam Banks Adam Banks 9 months ago

    Skynet is active!

    A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors:

    • Called-out comment
  • emh90 emh90 9 months ago

    Looks like it can only run in a straight line…

    • Called-out comment
  • David Kinghorn David Kinghorn 9 months ago

    This is awesome! Next up, a robotic T-Rex that can outrun a Jeep.

    • Called-out comment
  • tsrudra tsrudra 9 months ago


    • Called-out comment
  • vaporland . vaporland . 9 months ago

    i’ll be more impressed when they can dispense with the 18 mile long extension cord.

    Or, will it pull into a Walgreen’s parking lot and fill up at the plug-in hybrid charging station?

    I bet a can of WD40 and a Bic lighter would slow it down.

    Big Science isn’t going to save us, it’s going to do us in…

    • Called-out comment