At this point in our existence, we’re pretty used to the folks as Boston Dynamics regularly creating robots that horrify us and signify the eventual oppression of the human race under the heavy boot of our mechanical oppressors. That just seems to be how it’s going to go. You can’t help but imagine them as something akin to a real life Skynet. And their latest bit of handiwork, WildCat, is no different, only this new mech beastie will be able to chase you down over all sorts of terrain.
Though it may sound like a lawnmower and look like an awkward, lumbering collection of nuts and bolts, don’t be fooled, WildCat is a surprisingly agile innovation. Not only is the four-legged robot fleet of foot, it is intended and designed to remain stable on rugged ground and in a variety of environments.
WildCat has multiple different speeds to work with. A mid-tempo, bounding gait looks ideal for over rough ground, or over obstacles like rocks, logs, or other impediments and barriers. There is also a flat out galloping sprint for when conditions are more favorable and the droid is less likely to trip and take a tumble.
With a top speed of approximately 16 miles per hour, WildCat is nowhere near as quick as Boston Dynamic’s Cheetah robot, which topped out at 29 mph. That’s faster than Usain Bolt, who just happens to be fastest human ever recorded, which obviously makes him even faster than me. The newer robot, however, is much more stable—Cheetah needed a boom arm to hold it in place while it ran on an treadmill—not to mention nimble. WildCat turns on a relative dime, so it will totally be able to chase you down, even if you zig zag all over the place.
With funding from DARPA’s M3 program, Boston Dynamics has been tinkering with WildCat for about a year. This feels like middle ground between the straight up speed of the Cheetah and the weight bearing capability and stability of the LS3. This is just the first version, so you should expect to revisions and refinement in the future. There’s no word about what kind of load it can bear, or if it will be fitted with additional capabilities, like how LS3 can sense obstacles in its way and maneuver around them, as well as its ability to follow simple voice commands.
The developers envision a variety of applications for WildCat, beyond, of course, world domination. They picture a future where the robot could assist in fires and other disaster situations, while also being able to participate in military operations and agricultural pursuits. And my nightmares, this bad boy is going to be chasing me through my dreams for the foreseeable future.