Scientists in South Korea have developed a robot that, despite using cutting-edge technology, bases its design off of a creature that has been extinct for over 70 million years. However, the design has allowed the robot to achieve great speeds, and has led to it being dubbed “the Raptor.”
Last year in 2014, scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (located in Daejeon, South Korea) developed a robot that can achieve a max speed of 28.5 miles per hour, or 46 kilometers per hour. This is faster than Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter who is considered by many to be the fastest man alive whose highest speed is 27.44 mph. To help give it high speeds, the Raptor is comprised of lightweight materials and only weighs 12 kilograms. Its two legs even possess an Achilles tendon system to give the Raptor better shock absorption, a feature shared with human beings. There are also carbon-epoxy composite blades, which act as a combination of calves, legs and feet.
Aside from it’s two legs, the Raptor also has a “tail” which spins and provides the robot with balance when walking or sprinting. The tail also spins when in operation, and is controlled by a computer which also monitors the Raptor’s gait, which results in a robot that is very stable and responsive while maintaining high speeds.
However, even though the Raptor is faster than Usain Bolt doesn’t mean it is the fastest robot. That title belongs to the Cheetah, a four-legged robot designed by Boston Dynamics. When it was initially unveiled in 2012, the Cheetah set a new speed record for robots, and has continued to get faster from its first top speed of 18 mph until it reached its current top speed of 29.3 mph. The project is funded by the DARPA Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program, and the Cheetah is to be surpassed by the WildCat. It is important to note that the Cheetah is able to reach such speeds with four legs and is a very large and clunky design, while the Raptor only uses two legs and is much more lightweight and agile. This does make the Raptor the world’s fastest bipedal robot though.
As of right now, the Raptor is only capable of running on a treadmill, although scientists plan on redesigning certain aspects of the robot in order to allow it to run on other surfaces. And even then, the Raptor is surprisingly able to handle objects being thrown in its way with ease, even at high speeds. Reportedly, the Raptor is also made with almost entirely off-the-shelf parts.
But what would someone do with the Raptor? According to Park Jong-Won of KAIST, the Raptor is intended to provide reconnaissance or delivery services to the military, although it could be used for more peaceful search and rescue purposes in the aftermath of disasters. However, despite its agility and stability the Raptor has to be tethered, and scientists say it will take some more research before they are ready to take the Raptor “off the leash.” There is also the prospect that the Raptor can become even faster still; after all, the Cheetah with its four legs has become almost twice as fast in the few years since it was unveiled.