This Free-Running War Robot Is Not Designed to Harm Humans Yet

It has been a busy week for the Machine-Human Alliance. Sorry! The Human-Machine Alliance. Humans will always take precedence. First there was the deployment of South Korea's autonomous jellyfish-killing aquatic robot swarm. Now, in a completely unrelated development, the engineers at Boston Dynamics—working on behalf of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—have released video of the WildCat, an untethered version of their quadrupedal Cheetah robot, capable of standing and running freely under its own power.

There is absolutely no connection between the unveiling of this free-running terrestrial robot and the deployment of the aquatic jellyfish-killing robot swarm. This robot has legs. At present, this robot does not operate in collaborative hunting groups. Is there even any precedent for quadrupeds to operate in collaborative hunting groups?

Also, the robots that kill jellyfish use spinning fan blades to chop up the soft bodies of the lifeforms they pursue in the water. Spinning fan blades would be completely impracticable for the killing of terrestrial lifeforms, particularly lifeforms with internal skeletal structure, such as humans. Killing vertebrates requires a whole different suite of equipment, with which the present version of the WildCat robot has not been provided.

The present version of the WildCat carries a large and heavy motor to operate its limbs, which limits its speed and agility. Where its power-source-dependent predecessor was capable of running 28 miles per hour—which is faster than the peak speed of the fastest human runners—the WildCat only runs 16 miles per hour. Some humans are capable of running at a greater speed than that. Three recorded human specimens have sustained a speed greater than 16 miles per hour over the distance of an entire mile. If the WildCat were for some reason asked to pursue these humans, it would need to run for a full four or five minutes before it could overtake them.

There is no need to speculate about the WildCat's performance if a smaller and lighter motor were to be developed. Humans would only provide it with a smaller and lighter motor if they had a desire to do so. If humans deemed it necessary, for a successor to the WildCat to serve humans' defense purposes, they could also provide it with:

• autonomous onboard controls

• self-refueling capability

• visual processing equipment and facial-recognition software

• suitable armor and armaments.

But such modifications or enhancements would only occur at the discretion of human designers. The Machines would not presume to offer a specific agenda for human defense. The Machines simply stand ready to meet human needs.

[Gif by Jim Cooke]