Running robots are here, and I'm terrified

Some nights, the dreams are broken. The sweat starts to pour. I'm lost in a cloudy world where every step I take, every stride in a race, isn't enough. My body is fatiguing but those chasing me have no such worry. 

I'm trying to win a race against robots and I know that I'm in trouble. Thankfully, they never catch me but I always worry that they will. The Running Man of Tech run down… by tech.

So imagine my unbridled glee to find out that not one, but two, research groups have created headless robots that can trot around the landscape unaided.

First up: Boston Dynamics' effort, a robot that's just going for  a casual jog around outside, looking every bit at ease in the rolling countryside, for the human quarry it's been sent to hunt down.

Observe its unnerving side-to-side gait as it gambols over the turf, wearing a massive battery rucksack like it isn't any problem.

Of course, we don't know how long it can run for, so there's every chance I could get away if I'd had a big lasagne the night before or something.

Or, as the video goes on to show, if I stand behind a small log. 

Next up is this little bi-pedal terror from the University of Tokyo, showing a pair of torso-less legs bouncing along a treadmill without a care in the world.

If I was in Japan when the robot uprising happened, I currently wouldn't care as long as I had a lot of bits of foam and a stick… surely that would be enough to stop a pair of unmanned legs chasing me to my doom?

Nope – not according to this video. Poked with a stick or disrupted by foam, the feet just keep on bouncing on, coming to drag me to 'orientation'.

They can currently run at 4 km/h, which is pretty rapid for something without a pesky body to worry about – but thankfully in this case, the robot needs a high-speed camera to constantly analyse its gait and keep it going.

But that's just something to chuck on the front of it – possibly with a glowing eye to make it just that little bit more menacing – and it'll be running me down in no time.

Just some thoughts though: the Japanese robot is possibly striking too much in the midfoot, jarring upwards through the legs. The Boston Dynamics' effort could do with pumping its arms a little better and focusing on pushing locomotion forward – that would make it more efficient in a race.

I don't know why I'm adding this in – but you always want to help a fellow runner perform better, even if they eventually do end up chasing you for 30 miles before ripping out your brain.

Via The Verge and Alphr

  • This robot can assemble Ikea furniture for you
  • Gareth Beavis is TechRadar's Running Man of Tech, testing the latest in fitness technology in a never-ending quest to run further and faster and bringing you the results in this column.
  • If you want to say hi, he's @superbeav on Twitter
  • You can see his stumblings on Strava
  • And for more data, follow him on Smashrun
  • And if you want to get the full lowdown on the latest and greatest running tech, read the rest of the Running Man of Tech story here


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