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World’s fastest two-legged robot goes for a run

Don’t worry — if robots try to take over the world tomorrow, the average human can still outrun them.

Unfortunately, that’s about all the reassurance we can offer after watching a new video of MABEL, the running robot developed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon. In the footage (posted below), MABEL is seen jogging around a circular track at various speeds, liftings its “knees” and running as any human might (but causing a lot more noise while doing so).

The robot’s running speed currently tops out at 6.8 miles per hour, far below the average human running speed of 12-15 miles per hour — but then again, MABEL doesn’t need to catch its breath.

The robot was created in 2008, but only recently received the proper programming and mechanical tweaks to achieve the proper balance for high-speed running. One element that sets it apart from other “running” robots is its ability to spend a full third of each step in the air, significantly more time than any of its peers. (Most “running” robots move in a style more akin to speed-walking than running.)

According to MABEL’s creators, their research could go a long way toward creating robotic exoskeletons for humans or enabling robots to navigate uneven terrain for rescue missions or — and this is where our Skynet sense starts tingling — military service.

So, now the question becomes: when will MABEL get its first sneaker endorsement deal?

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