This 'robot ostrich' probably will outrun you
November 14th, 2011
11:10 AM ET

This 'robot ostrich' probably will outrun you

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Here's a fun viral video for your Monday morning - a computer simulation of a "robot ostrich" that's a joint project of DARPA, the U.S. Defense department's research arm, MIT and the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition:

The real name for this robot-ostrich project is FastRunner, which makes sense when you consider that it's being designed to run faster than people.

Here's more on that from IHMC's page dedicated to the project:

FastRunner will be a fast, efficient, and dynamic bipedal platform capable of traversing moderately rough terrain as fast as the best human sprinters. FastRunner will incorporate a novel leg design, which we have already demonstrated with several prototypes developed at IHMC. This leg design will enable FastRunner to achieve unprecedented efficiency and speed while being self-stabilizing.

All of this is semi-theoretical for now. The Florida robotics group says it's built one leg of the robot ostrich and has been running computer models that show it can reach speeds of 20 miles per hour within 15 seconds of the starting block.

Its top speed, according to a researcher on the project, is 27 mph.

Only 40% of the machine has actually been built so far, so all the excitement is about computer models. Expect an actual working prototype of the robo-bird by 2013, said Sebastien Cotton, a research scientist with IHMC in Florida.

Why an ostrich?

Because it's the fastest two-legged animal on land, he said.

"All the inspiration is coming from the ostrich so we spent a lot of time studying ostriches and trying to figure out which movements are essential to its locomotion," Cotton said by phone.

As for what the work this ostrich will do, Cotton said he couldn't share details. There's obviously something inherently cool about a 5-foot tall avian cyborg.

And since DARPA is involved, this unsuspecting ostrich is likely being designed to go to war.

Hopefully, when it gets there it will be able to maneuver itself with some grace. So far, computer simulations show that FastRunner can traverse "gentle slopes." IEEE, where we spotted this video, has more details on the ostrich's ability to handle rougher land:

It'll also be able to run over moderately rough terrain, albeit at 15 km/h, which is still probably going to give even a talented human a run for their money. To put the speed of this robot in perspective, a human can sprint at about 40 km/h over short, level distances, while an actual ostrich can hit almost 100 km/h, with sustained speeds in the 70s.

For context, balance and rough terrain can be big problems for robots. Some advances have been made in this area, though. Check out this video of PETMAN, from Boston Dynamics.

What's impressive about this video is not so much that PETMAN can walk, but that it maintains its balance even after the researcher in the video gives it a firm push.

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Filed under: Innovation • Tech
soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. 3d art , athmosphere and magic from Kurageart

    Its such as you learn my mind! You seem to grasp so much about this, like you wrote the e-book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few percent to pressure the message house a little bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A fantastic read. I'll definitely be back.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:17 am | Reply
  2. Spood

    I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords!

    November 29, 2011 at 9:18 am | Reply
  3. Asimo

    The Honda Asimo has 20+ years of development and is able to walk and run. It can also negotiate stairs. The only thing it does not do is fly.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Reply
    • honestAbe

      omg! Asimo is old mechanics! He just about drags his feet. Does not walk like a human like petman. Hes ok but its dev just stagnated.

      November 29, 2011 at 5:23 am | Reply
  4. Christina

    Any system like this robot would have it's nitch in the battlefield. A couple of possible near-term options:

    1. First in, first across. Going first across open field and first into possibly booby trapped buildings.
    2. Bring in, bring out. Bring in emergency supplies and take out wounded (when other options aren't available).
    3. Surveillence. Can move to top of ridges, buildings, etc. and stay there as long as needed.
    4. Firepower. Could be mounted with twin barrel machine guns, short range misiles, bomb, etc
    5. Super-sensory abilities. Smell, hearing, seeing, heat detection...up front and immediate information.

    Many of the above don't take super robotic abilities or speed, and custom outfitted to it's task. Reliability, portability and low enough cost to make them expendable in the battlefield would be more important in near-term usuage as a supplement to a force. Basically if robots can reduce human casualities, through less human exposure and bring along unique skills in high risk situations, then it's worth quite a bit in practice. The terminator aspects are probably way down the developmental road. Meanwhile....sweet dreams.

    November 20, 2011 at 2:24 am | Reply
    • saty

      Good points..

      Niche, not nitch 🙂

      Funny that the article mentions 'joint' and 'arm' in its first paragraph 🙂

      November 20, 2011 at 4:41 am | Reply
    • DeeNYC

      Every invention seems to have an application on the battlefield.

      November 25, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Reply
    • RonnieReagan

      Would have to be EMP-proof to be battle ready. Otherwise, this thing will be used against the American people, manning every street corner, looking for dissenters who dare to want freedom, and other 10 amendment rights.

      December 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm | Reply
  5. JKale

    Private:Colonel, the enemy is in sight. What should we do?
    Colonel: Hmmm...send the robotic ostriches after then Johnny.
    Private: Not the robotic ostriches sir!
    Colonel: Yes Johnny. The robotic ostriches.

    November 20, 2011 at 12:32 am | Reply
    • LBam

      Oh, that made me giggle.

      November 22, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Reply
      • Elia

        Laurie – Thank you so much for sharing these Marcy. The picutres are beautiful and believe me folks when I say this is just a very small sampling of what the photos were like Totally amazing!!! Thanks again for capturing Paul and Chels' day so beautifully.

        May 2, 2012 at 9:33 pm |
  6. PJRG

    The only problem with these projects is funding... For decades projects that have been really promising have been scrapped because of capital limitations... Most of the times all progress and research is lost due to classifications, and teams simply start again from scratch.. This type of droid should've been perfected by now..

    November 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  7. Paul

    Many can see this as possible future soldiers. Sounds crazy but when captain Kirk would whip out his cell phone and say "BEAM ME UP SCOTTY" we all knew that was scifi and could never happen. My question would then be would these military robots be used to police american citizens? Scary

    November 16, 2011 at 10:03 am | Reply
  8. wisdomVS

    The convergence draws closer... someday, we will say, "We are Borg, resistance is futile!"

    November 16, 2011 at 9:42 am | Reply
  9. RonFromNM

    Dyson. We have to kill Dyson before terminators are invented.

    November 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm | Reply
    • Baconstrips

      It's inevitable. Unfortunately, I think that we'll off ourselves well before it would happen.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:07 am | Reply
  10. Chris

    My company is developing new technology that will make battery life unimportant in a few years. Fuel cells are going to go away because they make too much noise to use in a military environment and can catch stuff on fire if hit by the right bullet.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Reply
    • Derek

      The exclusion of military use does not equate to the extinction of fuel cells...

      November 15, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Reply
    • Distribution

      And what Company would that be....?

      November 15, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Reply
    • DeeNYC

      Duracell just put out a contract on your life!

      November 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  11. Liqmaticus

    Still two very big challenges for the future. Battery life. (maybe fuel cell tech will accomplish better power times) and A.I. tech needs vast improvements.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  12. Newt Gingrich

    Meh, call me when they invent a Robotic Sandwich maker so I can replace this worthless wife

    November 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • Thatwasfunny


      November 15, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Reply
      • Baconstrips

        F*n hilarious!

        November 16, 2011 at 9:00 am |
  13. Hmmm

    Does anyone else think its a little weird to have PETMAN do pushups?? – there are no muscles to build...

    November 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • DeeNYC

      Only because it isn't wearing it's organically grown skin.

      November 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  14. Adam

    Check out "Big Dog" on youtube. Another Darpa project. Very cool / scary stuff.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Reply
  15. gonzoaster11

    All hail the robot overloads! (Please don't kill us.)

    November 15, 2011 at 11:19 am | Reply
  16. Mark

    I hope this means I will one day be able to ride a mecha-chocobo to work!

    November 15, 2011 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • Derek


      November 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  17. Rod C. Venger

    Idiocy. With a small electric motor and wheels instead of legs, a robotic "lizard" could do 60, 70mph easy. Wheels are just faster than legs, that's a truth.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:46 am | Reply
    • wow

      Do you realize how stupid you are???... It has legs so it can travel over any kind of terrain... The world isn't one giant concrete go-cart convention. You think a guy with a Masters in Engineering doesn't know wheels are faster... good god..

      November 15, 2011 at 7:25 am | Reply
    • Albert911emt

      WOW is right. Way to not read the article Rod C. Venger.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:21 am | Reply
      • Sukhjit

        batmkrsaer on November 6, 2011 Oh well why not give it a shot, there's nothing to lose, so I guess there's everything to win! And cmon who doesn't like sony products!

        February 19, 2012 at 8:23 am |
      • Karen

        Did anyone else notcie how weird the dragon in this video was. It moved very strangely and it had no ropes must of been the touring production. Right? Am I right? Please don't ignore me. Please?

        March 20, 2012 at 1:13 am |
    • Danny

      With inherit limitations to climbing uneven surfaces.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:40 am | Reply
    • Breck

      Nice lead with the word idiocy! I'm going to finish with the word ironic.

      November 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Reply
      • LBam

        High five for that one.

        November 22, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Chris

      Yeah except when you need to get up a flight of stairs, climb a 90 degree cliff/rock/etc. Then the tread length limits the maximum height. A human like robot will have no more restrictions than a human.

      November 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Reply
      • Adriana

        In the past, news' was local. You know a small town in the middle of Nebraska maybe would hear about somtnhieg that happened 100 miles away, but only if it was big news.' So news was literally in the hands of the people. Now with internet, television, radio, mp3 and ipads, news and information is everywhere and all the time I can write a news story! Well what happens is two-fold. First, there's so much information and so many ways of getting it that outlet A, in order to make money, needs to guzzy up the story a bit to make people buy it. And B) the telephone game goes on. And since it's so easy to publish opinions (like I'm doing now), I can write somtnhieg about a story, and the next person can, and the next, and then I can write more of my opinion on my own blog, and the next person and the next and all of a sudden the truth (the actual event or story) gets buried under opinions lots and lots of opinions. If you really wanted to solve this problem, we'd literally have to go back about 100 years, break up the huge metropolises, and get rid of computers and global communication. That's my opinion'.

        July 21, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • JoeJoeJoeJoe

      Rod, do you think everyone doesn't already realize that wheels are faster? After all, most of us drive cars. And most of us realize that to go up a flight of stairs, we need to get out of our car and WALK on our feet.

      November 16, 2011 at 12:56 am | Reply
  18. Hu

    History shows, without a doubt, anything man creates that is good is immediately converted to dastardly.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • Anunaki

      Hahaha, they wanna build these so when the American public discovers that their tax money us being syphoned to off shore central banks and the federal reserve, people running away from FEMA camps will be appropriately controlled.

      But, the tables will be turned ion them, they will be uncreated in a hyper dimensional vortex. This research will be used to build construction bots to bring down the cost of housing in the transition period to full comciousness...well, actually, it won't be necessary...

      They'll suffer beyond what they can humanly comprehend. If you dont understand this post, don't worry about it.

      November 15, 2011 at 6:07 am | Reply
    • Anunaki

      We got our eyeball on you.


      November 15, 2011 at 6:10 am | Reply
    • Drowlord

      Computers had a military purpose for a long time before they became business devices, and then became personal devices. The internet had military purposes before it had educational purposes, and then became a personal technology. It goes the other way at least as often. Military funding does great things for consumer technology.

      November 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Reply
      • Kaps

        Hi Jasna, the hat suits you, and it looks fabulous paierd with the sunnies, great choice. Love the leggings and heels combo, very classy en elegant.I think a girl can never wear too many bangles, rings, etc, it always adds femininity. You sitting on the pavement like that had me thinking, where are the days when I could sit like that, and not battle to get up again, my knees just don't allow that anymore .hehehe . enjoy it while you can. Aging is not for sissies .Enjoy your weekend.Colin.

        June 12, 2012 at 3:20 am |
    • Rio

      Yes, I should have said that- ootipn 2- I was taught to let them sit for 20 minutes, but I never have a full 20 minutes- so I have generally pulled them from the hot water in about 12-15 minutes. And I usually only boil eggs that have been sitting in the fridge for a little while- really fresh eggs are fried or scrambled, or used in a recipe.

      March 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  19. Interplexer

    Wasted research, And WRONG time to show it.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Reply
    • JoeJoeJoeJoe

      Um, why wasted? And the guy in the video is showing it to his colleagues, not to the public. CNN is showing it to the public.

      November 16, 2011 at 1:00 am | Reply
      • Sipexz

        Awesome! I never bought the POP Ostrich Race set, bsuecae I never thought I'd have a use for the animals. But you have proven me wrong by incorporating them as beasts of burden! Darn you!I love the siege tower. I was planning on making something like it, but never sat down to think it out.As for the steam punk styling, you might even consider using punk figures in armor, or what not. Example: Use the pink mohawk of the LEGO series minifigure rocker, the wild gray hair of the Mad Scientist of the same series, and the bodies of knights or barbarian tribesman.In any case, I can't wait to see what else you do with the siege tower.

        March 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
  20. Interplexer

    Show it when it can traverse a mountain with a 50. cal and snipe an enemy in the next valley...... Quickly!

    November 14, 2011 at 9:13 pm | Reply
    • Buc

      Maybe it already can... If not, I'm sure it will very soon...

      November 14, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Reply
      • JoeJoeJoeJoe

        Haha, Bluc, it doesn't even exist in physical form yet: it's just a computer simulation. So, no it can't shoot a .50 cal yet.

        November 16, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • InActionMan

      Whatever they are showing the public is most likely ten to fifteen year old tech. The real deal is already operational in some black budget DARPA lab.

      November 20, 2011 at 8:42 am | Reply
  21. Renee Marie Jones

    Very, very cool. Good work!

    November 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Reply
  22. smallmouse

    Check out the Petman Video, he struts like John Travolta

    November 14, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Reply
    • Interplexer

      Wasted research, And WRONG time to show it.

      Show it when it can traverse a mountain with a 50. cal and snipe an enemy in the next valley...... Quickly!

      November 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  23. sighhhhhhh

    y do we need this again?

    November 14, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Reply
    • Jon

      Because it's worth researching. Now shush. It's neat.

      November 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Reply
      • Amar

        3 x 5 @ 115# on the squat cneals. Felt good, receiving position is getting better for sure.I think alot of people are getting the hinge' concept and I saw quite a few people looking really good on the bars. Aimee was killing the k2e as was B. WOD was a doozy.77/299/92 or something like that. HR was pretty high I'll say.

        February 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Renee Marie Jones

      Making robots that can navigate rough terrain is really, really hard. Nobody really knows how to do it yet, but his is genuine progress!

      November 14, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Reply
      • J

        There's one robotic device that can navigate any terrain... it's called an Air Plane.

        Rocks are unpredictable, oddly shaped and shift under weight. Air, OTOH, is pretty smooth and constant.

        November 29, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
  24. pleaseproof

    ["All the inspiration is coming form the ostrich so we spent a lot of time studying ostriches and trying to figure out which movements are essntial to its locomotion," Cotton said by phone.] Cotton spoke in words that were incorrectly spelled?

    November 14, 2011 at 3:35 pm | Reply
    • German

      Imagine @markwiit Imagine how I feel hdnliog 3200 TZA at 30.20 avg price! That's 13500 USD loss just since the beginning of September!I started buying @ 37.90! Today it hit $24.85 at the bottom.

      February 22, 2012 at 12:48 am | Reply
  25. Roadsniper

    Now what about supersonic coyote! The future of war its about time to take humans out of war. But its still literaly man killing man so the point of this tech is? Its sad to see the disassociation and lack of communication involved in society today, so its all down to justifying our actions but with out the quilt

    November 14, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  26. Roadsniper

    Somebody out there? Come back!!!!

    November 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  27. Roadsniper

    No but it does come with a built in 50 caliber rifle and a bar, it would be lucky to catch me do to the fact that you stay on its side now is that so difficult?

    November 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  28. Roadsniper

    Whats wrong sarah, are youscared of a computer chip

    November 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  29. SarahConnor

    Keep that thing away from me!

    November 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  30. Mbane

    No mention of Apple? Does this robot come with an ipad? Stange for CNN to have a tech article that is not Apple related.

    November 14, 2011 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • SarahConnor

      Alan Parsons already copyrighted "iRobot"

      November 14, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Reply
      • Mark C

        Uh, actually "I, Robot" was an Isaac Asimov story from a quarter of a century before Alan Parsons referenced it, genius.

        November 14, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
      • Renee Marie Jones

        Copyright is usually not possible on a single word (the "actual content" requirement), maybe you mean trademarked? If so, then it is quite possible for many people to have a trademark on iRobot for different purposes. Look at the trademark registry some time; it is amazing how many duplicate trademarks are issued for the same mark (but in different markets or for different products).

        November 14, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  31. WhatWhatWhat?

    The beginnings of Cyberdyne Systems.

    November 14, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  32. CoffebeatsTea

    Outrun me? Come on man.
    -Usain Bolt

    November 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  33. us1776

    The RoadRunner goes bionic.


    November 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Reply
    • Aubrie

      Meep Meep!!!!

      November 14, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Reply
      • Steamr

        Wily Coyote wants ACME Corp to build him one! 😀

        November 15, 2011 at 10:23 am |
    • Alexey

      Juan Gomez March 12, 2011 This guy obviously has prlembos interacting with other people or has prlembos reading people.Human interaction during dating is a complicated dance where you observe and interpret cues and react accordingly. In our normal and polite society, the cues will have to be overwhelming positive in order to strip and throw oneself naked on to the bed.IMHO, such cues from the female would have to consist of exceedingly lascivious behavior including but not limited to:1) A lot of winking and nodding2) Licking or smacking of lips3) Hands down my pants or other parts of my body4) Removing all or parts of her garments5) Saying Get on my bed naked 6) A gun and This is a robbery Also, IMHO the above behavior is not considered normal in North American females on the first date outside of movies, escort services (so I've heard), drunken frat parties, fantasies, or extreme inebriation. Therefore IHMO, Kate, you have now entered the dating Twilight Zone.

      September 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Reply

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