Okay, so this robot isn’t quite finished yet, but when it is, you definitely won’t want to challenge it to a foot race. “The ostrich is the fastest biped, faster even that the high-jumping kangaroo,” said Johnny Godowski, research associate with the DARPA FastRunner project at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. “To move really fast, the ostrich swings its legs very quickly, rather than simply bouncing higher.”
Basically, ostriches are so fast because they don’t run like normal bipedal animals, who, as Godowksi said, bounce upwards. Instead, they run like four-legged animals, whose lower hip heights allow for greater speed. The ostrich’s advantage? It’s only weighed down by two legs, not four, which lets it reach speeds of 40 mph.
When actually built next year, FastRunner won’t be quite that fast, but Godowski does expect it to reach speeds of up to 20 mph. Later, he and his researchers plan to get it up to 30 mph, install it with a self-contained power source and enable it to turn left and right while carrying supplies over rough terrain, ideally for purposes like disaster relief.