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Behold the Cheetah Robot. The Singularity Is Nigh!

Behold the Cheetah Robot. The Singularity Is Nigh!
Photograph by Boston Dynamics via Youtube

Big defense budgets during the aughts financed the deployment of thousands of robots, including unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles, to Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s fascination with robots hasn’t slackened even in these more austere times. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is funding Boston Dynamics’ development of a prototype robot called the Cheetah. On March 5, the company announced that the cat-like bot managed to gallop 18 mph on a treadmill, setting a new land speed record for legged robots. (The previous record: 13.1 mph, set at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1989.) Here’s the video in all its Rise of the Machines creepiness. Or coolness. Your call.

Boston Dynamics, a 1992 spinoff from MIT that’s headed by Marc Raibert, has also developed a quadrupedal pack robot called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3). And in a move sure to wig out elements of the singularity movement, the company has a prototype human-like robot in the works called the Atlas that can walk upright and use its hands for balance while squeezing through narrow passages on surveillance or emergency rescue missions.