Robots Are Setting 100-Meter Dash Records Now

Science fiction is now science fact

Cassie the robot
This is what a record-setting robot looks like.
Kegan Sims

Can you outrun a bipedal robot? At one point, this was a question that only characters in dystopian books and films had to reckon with. As with so many other ominous rumblings from the world of science fiction, however, this is rapidly becoming science fact. Cassie, a bipedal robot from Agility Robotics, recently set a new world record in the 100-meter dash.

A couple of quick points for clarification: Cassie is a robot that resembles nothing so much as the lower half of an ostrich; given the size and prominence of its legs, you get a pretty good sense of what it’s designed for even before it’s started moving. As James Vincent reports at The Verge, the world record that Cassie set is a robot-specific one; we’re not at a point when bipedal robots are capable of chasing down elite track and field athletes.

At least, not yet.

The record-setting run took place at the Whyte Track and Field Center at Oregon State University — a location chosen because of Agility Robotics’ origins in the OSU College of Engineering. All told, Cassie ran the 100 meter dash in 24.73 seconds, which was enough to set a Guinness World Record. Cassie has also run a 5K in 53 minutes.

According to a press release from OSU, Cassie spent a year training for this — something not unlike the way an elite human athlete might prepare for a similar race. In the case of Cassie’s training, however, that year was compressed into the span of a week, which evidently one can do if one is a robot.

For no particular reason, here’s another totally non-terrifying clip of a robot running. Have decades of science fictional cautionary tales taught us nothing?

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