Boston Dynamics is working on two new robots for DARPA - one agile humanoid and one designed to outpace the fastest human runners.
The Cheetah robot is modeled on its namesake, with four legs, a flexible spine and an articulated head and neck - it may or may not have a tail, says the company.
The company says that not only will it be faster than any human being, but that it will be faster than any existing legged robot too. It will be able to make tight turns and accelerate rapidly - 'starting and stopping on a dime', the company says.
Based on the same control software and mechanical and electric systems as the company's other robots, Boston says the robot will be able to use momentum to bridge gaps, for example throwing or swinging itself from one set of handholds or footholds to the next.
Meanwhile, the humanoid Atlas robot will get about mainly on two legs, although it will also be able to use its hands for support and balance.
"Unlike Honda's Asimo and most other humanoid robots you've seen, Atlas will walk just like a man, using a head-to-toe walking motion, long strides and dynamic transfer of weight on each step, says Rob Playter, Atlas principal investigator and vice president of engineering.
"We have already achieved some advanced behavior in Petman, an anthropomorphic robot we developed for the Army, so Atlas can get a leg up on the problem by leveraging the Petman results."
The company says that both robots will have applications beyond the military, such as in emergency response situations and advanced agriculture.