Robotic dinosaur could outrun Usain Bolt

BY Rebecca Jacobson  June 3, 2014 at 7:00 PM EDT
Velociraptor-inspired robot, designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, uses Achilles tendons to absorb shock and a "tail" to give it balance. Photo courtesy KAIST/Youtube

Velociraptor-inspired robot, designed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, uses Achilles tendons to absorb shock and a “tail” to give it balance. Photo courtesy KAIST/Youtube

Velociraptors, such as the ones as portrayed in “Jurassic Park,” were vicious hunters known for their speed and agility. The ancient reptiles died out 75 million years ago, but their anatomy has inspired modern-day robotics.

Engineers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have designed a speedy robot on two legs that runs 28.5 mph — just fast enough to beat Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt in a race.

The Raptor might move faster than Bolt, currently the world’s fastest human, whose record speed is 27.4 mph. However, the mechanical raptor is not the fastest robot in the world. Engineering company Boston Dynamics’ Cheetah, inspired by the world’s fastest feline, clocks a top speed of 29 mph.

But Raptor is lighter, weighing just under 7 pounds. Its tough carbon fiber legs are designed with Achilles tendons, which act as shock absorbers. The robotic raptor also has a “tail,” a pole affixed to the robot’s side. It looks nothing like a dinosaur’s tail, but its function is the same, said Jongwon Park, one of the PhD students at KAIST. The tail acts as a counterweight, stabilizing the machine even as researchers throw styrofoam blocks in its path.

These robots may be fast, but Raptor and Cheetah are attached to railings to keep them upright when they run, giving humans a significant advantage in a foot race.