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DARPA-Funded 'Cheetah' Breaks Speed Record For Legged Robots

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the enjoy-your-nightmares-tonight dept.

Robotics 96

Sparrowvsrevolution writes "Boston Dynamics, a Waltham, Massachusetts technology firm and DARPA contractor, announced Monday that it's broken the speed record for running, legged robots. Its new four-legged creation is Cheetah, a robot that can run at 18 miles an hour, far faster than the 13.1 miles per hour record set by MIT in 1989. The video it's released shows Cheetah running on a treadmill, but the company hopes to both increase the robot's speed and take it onto outdoor terrain in the near future. Boston Dynamics rose to fame with its four-legged cargo robot Big Dog which showed an uncanny ability to walk over terrain and recover its footing even when it slips or is kicked. The firm followed up with Petman, a two-legged prototype that applies the same technology to human-style walking."

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96 comments

All hail.. (3, Funny)

lazycam (1007621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255065)

Our fast moving robotic overlords! Kinda scary to think about the military applications...

Re:All hail.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255103)

Well, let's all pray no one figures out how to build a foothold trap or dig a pit or something.

All I'm sayin' is that when military contractors are trying to re-invent the wheel I think spending priorities just *might* be slightly askew

Re:All hail.. (1)

Tommy Bologna (2431404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255207)

You are spot on. Once fielded, an astonishing number of DARPA's high-tech solutions are rapidly neutralized or undermined by low-tech countermeasures.

Re:All hail.. (0)

Feyshtey (1523799) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255409)

And there have never been successful non-military application for any advancements DARPA has been involved in....

Re:All hail.. (1)

Gription (1006467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256377)

And there have never been successful non-military application for any advancements DARPA has been involved in....

Yeah, the ARPANET never really went anywhere...

Your Username Is Stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255429)

You are spot on. Once fielded, an astonishing number of DARPA's high-tech solutions are rapidly neutralized or undermined by low-tech countermeasures.

The blacks. It's their fault.

Re:All hail.. (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264397)

Eventually it will have radar and sonar with which to detect your traps, and will be able to easily avoid them. Besides, if it does fall into one that it can't get out of, it will simply call for a few copter droids to pull it out.

For humanity? Nope... (0)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255093)

Unfortunatly, it's all about building killing machines and machines that support killing machines...

That's where the money is.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255313)

Shut the fuck up, you fucking hippy.

Meanwhile, enjoy the benefits of a military developed Internet.

that without (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255805)

that without the non military aspect helping it might have become a telephone that zaps you when you touch a keyboard.
THUS proving what the parent said aobut the useless DARPA

Re:For humanity? Nope... (5, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255361)

Right. Because the only use of a running robot is killing people. Also, nothing DARPA ever worked on contributed to society. Especially not ARPANET.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (4, Funny)

Squiddie (1942230) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255893)

I don't know man, I really can't think of a lot of things to do with a robot other than having it run after terrified people. Terminator ruined me.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256231)

Good point. So why can't we spend research on healing people, growing more food, educating people, etc. and let the military pick up the byproducts from that research to kill people better, instead of the other way around?

Re:For humanity? Nope... (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256347)

and let the military pick up the byproducts from that research to kill people better

Anyone foolish enough to do that would be eradicated by a country that spends more money on its military. You are descended from a long line of bloodthirsty merciless warriors who vanquished pacifists and lesser warriors and raped what women they left behind. OK, that's a small exageration, but still. We are still alive because of the defenses we have erected.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (1)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259263)

Did you just say the U.S. is planning to eradicate the rest of the world?

Re:For humanity? Nope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39261421)

That's what it looks like from the outside, yes. /Europe

(PS: Please vote Ron Paul. Every time I read an article about those other nutjobs, Obama included, something breaks inside of me)

Re:For humanity? Nope... (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264437)

You are aware that the US spends approximately the same amount on military as does the entire rest of the world combined...? Maybe we could dial that down just a little bit.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257269)

The military does spend a fair bit of research on healing people (soldiers), making food more efficient (for soldiers), and educating people (soldiers).

They also happen to spend a lot of cash on weapons. But as long as weapons are controlled by human beings, there's going to be an assload of people helping results from their work.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 2 years ago | (#39258395)

Of course DARPA provided ARPANET, but the kind of global network would have been inevitably created. Military spending is not necessary; it's just the current paradigm. Research is being globally fueled by our fear of others, which is also being instigated for militarist purposes. The reality could be different.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (3, Insightful)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 2 years ago | (#39258769)

So what are the applications? Boston Dynamic's Big Dog robot is able to move over uneven terrain and carry a large load, but it's fairly slow, so it's limited to a sort of robotic pack mule role. The emphasis on speed here means this new robot is intended for some other kind of role. I can see three potential roles for this thing in combat.

The first is as a scout- basically, the robot can walk point, look for potential ambushes or IEDs, run behind and see if anyone is following, or run up to the top of a hill to look around. A human could do the exact same thing, of course, but these are dangerous roles, and the robot is expendable.

The second role is to act as a highly mobile fire team. Assuming you built a larger version of this thing, about the size of a person, you could arm it with a light machine gun. If a unit comes under attack, the robot could then rapidly move to take another position and shoot back at the enemy or provide covering fire. Again, this role could also be performed by a person, but it's less dangerous to have the robot open fire while you're pinned down than to stand up and risk getting shot.

The third role is the one that immediately leaps to mind when you see this thing run, and that's a hunter-killer. This is the first robot that can actually chase down a person. A robotic vehicle might be faster, but it can't move over uneven terrain. Big Dog can move over uneven terrain, but it's not fast enough. You can hide from a flying drone. This thing could chase down and kill people. Stick a gun on it, or perhaps a Hellfire missile, and you'd have the terrestrial equivalent of a Predator drone.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39294045)

Thank you for this comment. People are alarmist idiots who watch too much Nancy Grace.

Re:For humanity? Nope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255959)

Why would anyone would like an all terrain fast response robotic device to determine you are alive during an emergency? After all when they can just leave you there suffering pain because you're being a jerk when someone told you not to go for a hike in the middle of an earthquake! Irresponsible people! /sarcasm.

Scale factor (2)

erice (13380) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255179)

A good companion project would be smaller robot that runs at only 9mph but for longer distances. Call it "Gazelle"

Re:Scale factor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256001)

I believe that's called people

Cheetah? I don't think so (2)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255285)

At 18 mph tops, a better name would be Hippo [wikipedia.org].

Re:Cheetah? I don't think so (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255503)

Hippos have been clocked at 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances.

As impressive as it is for a walking robot to achieve this kind of speed, I'd be a lot more impressed if it were demonstrating the ability to adapt to real terrain while doing so. Running on a treadmill is a disgustingly controlled environment compared to the real worlds, and what I've always found fascinating about robotics is the ideas people have for algorithms that can adapt to an unpredictable and far-from-level world.

Re:Cheetah? I don't think so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256015)

What you are seeing now is what as done almost a year ahead of schedule. They said the next step is to go much faster (50mph) over real terrain.

Re:Cheetah? I don't think so (1)

multiben (1916126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255935)

Yes. Of all the cheetah robots which can run at 18mph, this one is definitely the worst.

Jeez give them a break.

Is it just me... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255307)

Or does that thing look like its running backwards?

Re:Is it just me... (1)

Prosthetic_Lips (971097) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257123)

Exactly. I was wondering why in real life everything that had feet had forward facing feet (bent in the direction of running), but this robot has backward facing feet (bent away from the direction of running). It seems very non-intuitive. Or are there animals with feet pointing away from the direction of movement?

This is also seen, somewhat, in the BigDog robot, where the legs bend the wrong way, all the knees pointing toward the middle of the body.

I can see how the "feet" here help it grab onto the ground better to go forward, but what is it lacking since the feet are backwards from, say, a dog. Does it have less climbing ability (no claws)? Less stopping ability? Or is the weird geometry based on an enhancement to human / animals, such as bones that have a higher tensile strength (since ours have to grow, mend, etc.)?

Re:Is it just me... (1)

aiht (1017790) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257347)

In my head, it has no feet - just legs going straight down to the ground, like hooves. If you picture that bottom joint as a knee instead of an ankle, then it looks a lot like a running animal.
It's just like the Necker cube, or the old woman / young woman illusion - you can flip the way you see it from being a clown-footed weird thing running backwards to being a footless catlike animal running forwards.

Re:Is it just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39264095)

This thing runs like a dysplastic dog. There is no extension of the knees or elbows. Any animal that ran like this would soon tire.

Just like the robot in "Red Planet" (3, Insightful)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255355)

I thought that robot was kinda cool because it showed how superhumanly fast and agile our robot overlords will become.

Even if this robot (when eventually built with an on board power supply) can "only" go 18 mph, remember that unlike a real cheetah, it will presumably be able to keep it up for miles (I think cheetahs can only maintain this speed for a quarter mile). That's because the real cheetah is limited by heat buildup, presumably the motors and power source of this inorganic machine can operate at much higher temperatures so is limited not by heat buildup but fuel capacity.

Pretty scary if one of these things was chasing you down.

Re:Just like the robot in "Red Planet" (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256017)

Pretty scary if one of these things was chasing you down.

Nothing a baseball bat wouldn't fix.

Re:Just like the robot in "Red Planet" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262471)

unless it was loaded with explosives

Re:Just like the robot in "Red Planet" (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264539)

Or has the ability to observe, map, and avoid obstacles in real time such as has been demonstrated recently by the copter droids. You know those anime's where the hero jumps on the attacker's sword and jumps off it for a better attack? Eventually these will be able to do that.

Pfah - Shotgun slugs or better, RPG! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256137)

"Pretty scary if one of these things was chasing you down." - by wisebabo (638845) on Monday March 05, @06:24PM (#39255355)

See subject-line above... & a shotgun slug would make mincemeat outta it, + IF a larger & armored model were made? "We have the technology" for that too -> RPG!

* :)

APK

P.S.=> One thing human beings are pretty good at, is making weapons, lol (especially considering who sponsors this, in DARPA)...

However, on a more serious note:

I was actually truly impressed by this Cheetah robot, but, FAR MORESO, by "Big Dog" -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww [youtube.com] (Another creation of "Boston Dynamics" with funding from DARPA) - the things of science-fiction in my youth are now becoming the realities of today (not mainstream yet in the forms shown above, since we have ROOMBA's & what-not, but I give that another 20 yrs. tops for this to be everyday commonplace reality all around us)...

... apk

Re:Pfah - Shotgun slugs or better, RPG! (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 2 years ago | (#39264615)

Have you seen the recently demonstrated ability of the copter droids to observe, map, and avoid obstacles in real time? Eventually these will be able to do that too, dodging out of the way of an RPG. The counter would be a guided RPG with proximity detonation, but those are far more rare and expensive. In the case of a firearm they'll be able to interpolate your point of aim and avoid that location much more rapidly than you can adjust to aim.

TBBT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255377)

"A warning for anyone who imagines a Skynet-ruled world of robot domination: Don’t watch the video below. Or if you do, prepare for nightmares of being chased at 18-miles an hour by a gas-powered steely automaton."

This is just asking to be featured on Big Bang Theory.

Good Work, for a step backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255393)

Now if only we can make it run in a forward motion.

They've invented the horse. (1)

RabidChipmunk (19279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255405)

I watched the videos and all I could think was, can we feed it off the local terrain?
If necessary can we eat it?

Seriously, the support systems for these will need to be as complex as the machines themselves. However, they are pretty cool.

-sh

Re:They've invented the horse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256705)

You're right! Everyone stop! STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! We don't need any of this! ...

Backwards? (1)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255537)

Anyone else thought this cheetah is running ass-backwards? I kept waiting for the treadmill to reverse....

Missing head for identification. (2)

penandpaper (2463226) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255547)

First impression; headless robot chicken that dances. At 18mph, the waddling stopped and it looked like a headless goat zombie cyborg from hell. God help us all.

So cool, but (2)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255561)

1) 18mph is "terrifyingly fast" now?

2) I can't tell the head from the tail.

Re:So cool, but (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39255727)

1) compared to what you can run? yes
2) Not yet... but you certainly will when they give it teeth, and lasers, and laser-teeth

Re:So cool, but (1)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255843)

Oh no! The robot cheetahs are attacking! Weapons ready... wait for it... waaaait for it... wha ate for grzzzz...

Re:So cool, but (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255895)

how many humans do you know who can run at that speed for more than a few minutes? the day someone escapes from jail and they'll send these toys after them, they will most likely be terrified...
at the moment, they seem to still need an ombilical cord though, so I agree that they're not that scary.

for your second item: in the future, the head will be the end with the shark lasers attached to it.

Re:So cool, but (2)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256289)

Exactly.

It's "terrifying" when you imagine it chasing after people while loaded with weapons. Inmates, protesters, mistakenly identified civilians in Elbonia. Something like this, armed with a taser or more conventional weapon (or even a sonic one intended to incapacitate you) is very much a robotic predator. It will almost certainly be taught to climb stairs, modified to carry weapons, and probably have either a remote control, or the ability to home in on a tracking device.

Sure, there will be some situations when you can juke it, but in the scenario of someone actively trying to run away, I could certainly see this as something very, very scary.

Cheetah blood (1)

cesman (74566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255621)

It couldn't help the crew of the Planet Express ship but, I wonder if they rubbed cheetah blood on it?

Doesn't run like a cheetah (1)

Ken_g6 (775014) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255641)

Here's a random video of cheetahs running [youtube.com]. Notice how the cheetah extends it spine when pushing off with its back legs, and contracts it when landing on its front legs? It seems like this would be a simple improvement for a robot "spine", which doesn't have a spinal cord in it: Just add a piston in the middle to expand and contract.

Re:Doesn't run like a cheetah (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256165)

Great idea! [youtube.com]

The robot's movements are patterned after those of fast-running animals in nature. The robot increases its stride and running speed by flexing and un-flexing its back on each step, much as an actual cheetah does.

Re:Doesn't run like a cheetah (1)

stjobe (78285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259143)

Watch the video again - and make sure to stay tuned until it hits the higher speeds.

It does exactly what you say it should, it's quite easy to see in the slow-motion 18 mph parts.

World Record Pace (1)

cmplus (681254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39255741)

At 16 mph you could qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the men's 1500 M. At 18 mph you could set the world record in the 1500 and take home a gold medal. At 18.6 mph you are unrelenting.

What's it for? (1)

twotacocombo (1529393) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256047)

Why exactly are they developing something like this? For what practical use is a quadrapedal robot that can outrun a human? Why don't they just give it big metal teeth an an unquenchable thirst for blood?

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256109)

Who says they won't?

no wind resistance on a treadmill (0)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256139)

physics - fail

mathematics - fail

basic logic - fail

PR - win!

Re:no wind resistance on a treadmill (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256211)

Wow, are you accepting bets that wind resistance will stop this thing in its tracks? I'll take that bet.

Personally I'd worry more about getting an onboard powerplant, but that's just me.

Re:no wind resistance on a treadmill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39256461)

You forgot "correlation is not causation".

If you're going to sit there and show how much smarter you are than the scientists and engineers involved, you may as well do it properly.

if they can't go 18 mph (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259717)

they can't go 18 mph. it's not 'arrogance', its just pointing out a very simple fact.

Re:no wind resistance on a treadmill (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256747)

You know, Big Dog started on a treadmill also. It may surprise you to learn that they don't build a completely autonomous prototype every time they want to test new things.

if it can't go 18 mph , don't say (1)

decora (1710862) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259715)

that it can go 18 mph.

Re:if it can't go 18 mph , don't say (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 2 years ago | (#39262423)

It can clearly run at 18mph. Wind resistance is not a constant. If it was running outside with an 18mph tailwind, would that convince you? Because that's exactly what it's like on a treadmill. There's no reason to assume a 40mph headwind, or no wind at all for that matter. The treadmill is moving at 18mph, and the robot is keeping up. The goal is beyond 18mph anyway, so once this thing gets out of the lab it's going to be going faster than 18mph with or without wind.

Furthermore, the prototype on the treadmill has no paneling to decrease wind resistance, which can always be added at a later time also. It's pretty goddamn pedantic to claim that the thing is not capable of running at 18mph, when it clearly is doing so, just because there is no relative wind.

Re:no wind resistance on a treadmill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259269)

You leaped fully-formed from your mom's womb the day you were conceived?

Or were you more of a chest-burster?

Amazing! (2)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256207)

It's amazing that at a time when we have people short on food, housing, education, and basic medical care in the US, that there's no shortage of money for researching how to kill people better. At least we can still say we're #1 at something... :|

Re:Amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259725)

All those problems can be solved by retting rid of humans.

Round numbers (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256443)

2.5 MPH = 4 kph
10 MPH = 16 kph
12.5 MPH = 20 kph
18.5 MPH = 30 kph

It's funny how you get all round numbers when you convert to standard units.

Terrifying... (1)

tucara (812321) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256607)

Say what you will but I live close enough to Waltham that I'm now worried about these things coming to my house in the middle of the night. It's like a prototype for the Rat Things in Snow Crash...

Re:Terrifying... (1)

Patchw0rk F0g (663145) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259409)

Say what you will but I live close enough to Waltham that I'm now worried about these things coming to my house in the middle of the night. It's like a prototype for the Rat Things in Snow Crash...

So you made the connection too... thought of them as soon as I saw it!

Thankfully, didn't see any hint of organics in there... ;-)

Am I the only one a little disturbed by DARPA? (2)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256681)

DARPA has been very successful in getting the general public and academia involved in helping them to figure out how to make war robots, which you've gotta admit has to be their only goal.

They are a cool group, to be sure, but should we really be so enthusiastic?  I mean JDAM's are cool and all, but personal house invasion robot's are not.

And they are inevitable.  But why accelerate the process?

Re:Am I the only one a little disturbed by DARPA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262221)

Because every other military is trying to develop the same thing?

Re:Am I the only one a little disturbed by DARPA? (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 2 years ago | (#39266861)

Sure, but these public contests help everyone equally.

Just surfing the logic.  I realize there are upsides.

Reality? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 2 years ago | (#39256715)

So the robot can run in a straight line on a perfectly smooth surface with perfect traction; cool but it has a long way to go. Wait till one of those spikes it call feet digs in or slides on some gravel. Show me when you can do this outside in real terrain.

nice trick (1)

cuon (2536726) | more than 2 years ago | (#39257231)

This was really cool to watch, but I'm not sure how having a fast robot with appendages like these would be advantageous over a mobile robot with wheels/treads, which can already handle outdoor terrain and move considerably faster than Cheetah's 18mph. Thoughts?

Re:nice trick (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#39259283)

It would be able to climb stairs and travel across rough terrain at near maximum speed. Do it right and it will also be able to jump.

18mph in a straight line.....but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39257329)

While 18 mph on a treadmill is impressive, wonder how agile it is? Can it turn? Stop? Not likely very well. I'll start worrying when they are as agile.

Akin to a funny car showing up for a F1 race.

doing it wrong? (1)

Gravis Zero (934156) | more than 2 years ago | (#39258551)

everytime researchers try to make something that can walk/run/whatever, they rely on components that are far less versatile than that which they are trying to emulate. i'm talking about replacing muscles with servos and other stuff. with the recent discovery of "muscle wire" i would think researchers would use this wire to build complex muscles making it possible to replace a lot of actuators with a single complex muscle.

while very cool, i think they are going about this all wrong.

23 years is fast? (1)

Satire Jones (2576935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39258995)

If this is considered a milestone, why did it take us so long to achieve a 35% increase in speed? The last time someone played with this technology there was no Internet...

Rat Thing.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39259151)

...first thing I thought anyway.

Banned weaponry (1)

ChocNut (791621) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260159)

Developing killer robots will be illegal in the future (if we survive that is). Common sense dictates that we should pre-emptively make this illegal now and save ourselves some serious pain.

Next step (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39260559)

Are they building a giant cassette player to eject it out of?

running on a treadmill is nothing, run on terrain! (1)

jerryjnormandin (1942378) | more than 2 years ago | (#39260881)

Is this the dumbing down of science ? I design autonomous robots. Running on a treadmill is nothing compared to running on terrain! Running on a treadmill the feet and stride do not need to adapt for the terrain. The balance algorithm isn't as complicated if you are running on a treadmill. I'd imagine that this robot is pretty easy to knock off it's feet.

Re:running on a treadmill is nothing, run on terra (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39262831)

"I design autonomous robots."

Proof please

Cheetas in the Battle Field (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 2 years ago | (#39261433)

I think a real Cheeta with a controllable collar would be more useful. Even better, a swarm of collar controlled Rats.
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