Is Puma’s new robot runner faster than Usain Bolt?

Racing a robot seems like either a recipe for embarrassment or the best training tool. Puma thinks the latter, so they partnered with J. Walter Thompson ad agency to make a pacing robot called BeatBot. It’s easy to think of as a lure for human greyhounds.

The theory is that doing another Fitbit-like tracker is worse than played out and it won’t improve performance as quickly as having someone (or something) that’s better (or faster) than you. Florent Imbert, executive creative director for JWT New York told Fast Company, “Running against an invisible clock will never be as motivating as running against someone — or something.”

The introduction video published by Puma on April 29 makes a good point: competition is a fantastic motivator, and BeatBot is exactly that — a visual target (in this case, a bot) to beat, instead of simply running against the clock.

BeatBot follows lines, which makes it perfect for track running. It uses nine infrared sensors and an Arduino platform for navigation. Rear LEDs keep it visible, and GoPro action cams mounted fore and aft record the run for later review. It’s self-driving and is programmed via a handy app. Enter the distance and the time to beat, and place the robot on a line. The app records times, so the bot can be programmed to run old records or other people’s records — like Usain Bolt’s, for example.

The bot determines speed and distance traveled by measuring wheel revolutions to recreate the pace of a given record. It may look like a shoe box with RC car wheels, but it’s fast as Usain Bolt, World Record holder for the 100 meter sprint with a time of 9.58 seconds (that’s 44 km an hour). As far as beating Bolt’s world record, the fastest man alive’s words were, “Good luck with that.”

BeatBot’s speed proved to be the tricky part of the design. While line-following robots are pretty common, keeping it on track through a turn at that speed proved a challenge. Imbert said, “We went through over eight prototypes … We even enlisted the expertise of a NASA robotics engineer and three MIT grads.”

The downside: it’s not available to the public. The cost of the current model is so high it’s only available to Puma athletes, teams, and other special people. But as Imbert said, “The plan is always to develop new models, products and ideas to inspire every athlete.” Perhaps someone who sees this will be inspired to make their own pacing bot.


‘Overwatch’ gunslinger Ashe is now available on all platforms

Blizzard announced Ashe as the latest Overwatch hero at BlizzCon 2018. The gunslinger has a history with McCree and makes use of a lever-action repeating rifle and a robotic sidekick.
Emerging Tech

Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

Until drones start vaping, you're unlikely to see anything more millennial than a recent contest in Japan in which robots competed to pull off some seriously impressive bottle-flipping feats.

AMD Navi: Everything you need to know

With a reported launch in 2019, AMD is focusing on the mid-range market with its next-generation Navi GPU. Billed as a successor to Polaris, Navi promises to deliver better performance to consoles, like Sony's PlayStation 5.
Emerging Tech

Shipping crate filled with 3D-printing robots may be the future of construction

Autodesk has created a robot-filled shipping container which may represent the future of construction work. The crate contains two robots able to 3D print custom components for building sites.
Emerging Tech

Breakthrough in paralysis treatment restores walking ability in record time

Three paraplegics who sustained serious spinal injuries years earlier have regained the ability to walk again, courtesy of electrical stimulation of their spinal cords using a wireless implant.

Walmart kicks off Black Friday with a home gym discount

As the holidays inch nearer and nearer, some of the biggest retailers are unveiling their best Black Friday offers. If your objective is to start living a healthier life, Walmart has the best deal right now on a home gym.

Fitbit's latest update brings 'Quick Replies' feature to the Charge 3

Back in August, Fitbit confirmed its new wearable -- the Fitbit Charge 3. The new fitness tracker features a touchscreen OLED display, smartwatch capabilities, enhanced fitness features and more. Here's everything you need to know about it.

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.

Fitbit Charge 3 vs. Fitbit Versa: Which one should you choose?

Fitbit's latest fitness tracker -- the Charge 3 -- comes with smartwatch capabilities similar to the Fitbit Versa. With only a $50 difference between them, we pit the two wearables against each other to find out which one is worth the…

These bike lights use the magic of magnetism to generate power

Magnetic Microlights are a new option for cyclists that use nothing more than magnets to generate power to illuminate a bike light that is bright, eco-friendly, and increases the safety of riders.
Smart Home

Row your way to a healthy bod with the CityRow Go connected rowing machine

Want the connected experience of a Peloton but dislike biking? You can now feel the burn of a cardio-busting rowing session from the comfort of your living room with the new CityRow Go connected home rowing machine.

Here's a look at what's inside Fossil's Pop-up Shop in New York

Fossil has released its first-ever smartwatch featuring Qualcomm's Snapdragon Wear 3100. The Fossil Sport comes packed with a heart rate monitor, built-in GPS, NFC, and Google's latest version of Wear OS. Here's everything you need to know.

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!