OutRunner: The Track and Field Robot That Will Outrun Usain Bolt

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Meet OutRunner, the world’s first remote-controlled robot that’s capable of outpacing the likes of Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet.

Born from the idea that everybody should be able to experience and enjoy the fun of working with robots, OutRunner was “biologically-inspired,” emulating the movements and behaviors of legged animals.

Sebastien Cotton, the founder and CEO of Robotics Unlimited, spoke with Edge about the innovation and likens the design of the OutRunner to that of bipeds, “A lot of people are wondering if that is not just a wheel without the rim. My answer is not at all.

“Each leg of the robot is spring loaded with a very specific stiffness and damping, without that you’ll simply end up with some kind of chaotic bouncing motion,” says Cotton. “The mass and length distribution of each element of the robot are also of fundamental importance to obtain a stable running motion.”

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When asked about the OutRunner’s ability to beat Usain Bolt in a race, Cotton explained that Bolt will probably accelerate a bit faster than the running robot, “but OutRunner will catch up with him pretty easily and will win in the long run. Remember OutRunner can run at 20 mph for 2 hours. I don’t believe anybody on earth is capable of that.”

It's definitely true that the OutRunner would be able to outlast Bolt with its ability to run for two hours at 20 mph, but, Bolt would in fact beat out the robot if they were pitted against each other in Bolt's signature 100 meter race. According to the IAAF, Bolt set the world record for the fastest foot speed at 27.79 mph in the 100 meter dash in late 2009, 7.79 mph faster than the OutRunner can currently go. 

The first-ever legged robot will be commercially available to the public by 2015 and is available in two different models. The OutRunner Core, which is the version you’d probably want if you’re looking to play around and just have some fun, is the “base-level” model and can reach speeds up to 10 mph. It is also limited to six legs.

The OutRunner Performance is the heavy-duty, much more powerful version that’s packed with state-of-the-art sensors, an onboard High Definition camera, and will have the capability of being upgraded in terms of both hardware and software.

​The biggest scientific breakthrough in the OutRunner’s design is the legs. “By having a center of mass lower than the leg axis of rotation, OutRunner robots exploit a buoyancy effect,” says Cotton, “making them inherently stable and eliminating the need for expensive sensors and complex control algorithms.”

Different variations of the OutRunner will be available for consumers by late 2015, including the OutRunner Core and the OutRunner Performance, which can both be customized with modules and software upgrades.

Different variations of the OutRunner will be available for consumers by late 2015, including the OutRunner Core and the OutRunner Performance, which can both be customized with modules and software upgrades.

Robotics Unlimited, the Florida-based company behind the innovative running machine, is not only looking to create fun toys for people to play with, they’re also looking to create a community of robotics enthusiasts in which people can “breathe and share the same passion.”

The next step for the robotics company is to achieve funding through their Kickstarter campaign and move into production next year. By the end of 2015, they hope to organize the world’s first-ever racing competition of running robots. According to Cotton, they will try to setup the event roughly six months after releasing the OutRunner to give anyone who has purchased a robot enough time to prepare their star “athlete” for what they’re calling “The Robot Race.” The competition will be broken down into three races: drag, endurance and slalom. Cotton explained that they’d love to bring racers in from all over the world to participate.

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A global robot race isn’t the only thing that Cotton is hoping the OutRunner will be used for. Among other things, Cotton expressed a desire for the running robot to be used as a drone “to perform exploration missions;” as a pace keeper for joggers; and as an educational tool for youngsters or adults interested in engineering or the science behind building robots.

At the very least, we’d love to see the OutRunner pitted against Bolt, the fastest man alive, just to see how well the little robot would perform in a “footrace.” Though the OutRunner would likely win because the two-hour battery life guarantees endurance, maybe by late 2015, the product's projected release date, companies like Robotics Unlimited will have figured out a way to give humans a power boost to even the playing field.