Pioneering robot breaks world record in running

An ostrich-like machine named Cassie has snatched a Guinness World Record title for a 100-meter sprint.

Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt completed a 100-meter dash in 9.58 seconds in 2009 and is the fastest human on record. For someone of average running talents, it would take about 14 seconds to complete the same distance.

For Cassie, a bipedal robot built by engineers at the Oregon State University (OSU), it took 24.73 seconds. Now, don’t jump to conclusions – its ostrich-like legs clearly indicate much bigger future ambitions.

Cassie started its run from a standing position and returned to that same position without falling when it took to OSU’s Whyte Track and Field Center, which was impressive enough for the Guinness World Records to declare it the fastest bipedal robot in a 100-meter dash.

“It cannot simply run 100 meters and crash. Similar to the takeoff and landing of an airplane, starting and (especially) stopping were the most challenging hurdles of this endeavor,” the Guinness World Records said in a statement.

Cassie has no cameras or external sensors, and it is a machine learning algorithm that keeps it running – and stopping when needed. Its creators say it is a “watershed” moment for melding physics with artificial intelligence.

“Machine learning approaches have long been used for pattern recognition, such as image recognition, but generating control behaviors for robots is new and different,” said graduate student Devin Crowley, who led the Guinness effort.

Cassie is the first bipedal robot that used machine learning to set a Guinness World Record for speed.

“This may be the first bipedal robot to learn to run, but it won’t be the last,” Jonathan Hurst, head of Cassie’s development team, said.

Well, let’s see how long Cassie sits on its laurels – after all, who doesn’t love some good old competition in a race to make robots superior to humans?