Developers are trying to raise money on Kickstarter for a six-legged robot that could be one of the fastest remote-controlled all-terrain robots in the world.
Its creators say the OutRunner robot can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and can run for two hours on a single charge. OutRunner is less than 2 feet tall, weighs about 3 pounds, and has three legs on either side of a central motor and processing unit.
It's the creation of Robotics Unlimited, a spinoff of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition headed by research scientist Sebastien Cotton. It was designed and built in Pensacola, Fla., and it's generating a lot of buzz online, with features in Engadget, the Verge, the Daily Mail and elsewhere.
"The whole robotic world is really closed off right now," Cotton said. "If you're not an engineer with a Ph.D., well, you won't be able to play with robots. I want to change that, so I started my company to commercialize robots."
The robot runs by rotating both sets of legs in time so that as a foot on one side is lifted, the one on the other is planted, much like how humans and many animals run -- only with three legs on each side.
A YouTube video of an OutRunner prototype shows the robot running through the long-empty Pensacola Technology Park.
"One of the hardest things with bipedal locomotion is swinging the leg forward," Cotton said. "That's a very complicated motion, so we took a different approach to simplify the mechanics by having the legs spinning."
Cotton said he and his team have been working on OutRunner for about the past year. "We see a lot of uses for this," Cotton said. "First, for people who love to build and take apart things, it's perfect because OutRunner is completely upgradable. It also can be educational because it's very fun for kids to play with and easy to use. We want people to be able to play with real robots without having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars."
A Kickstarter campaign to bring OutRunner to the public has already garnered more than 70 backers and $15,000 in support, though that's far from the campaign's June 7 goal of $150,000. Because Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing affair, Cotton and company won't see a dime if the $150,000 goal isn't met.OutRunner will come in two models: core and performance, Cotton said. Both models will be operated by radio control, though the performance model will have an accompanying smartphone app able to control it as well.
The performance model also will be faster and have a built-in camera, along with other under-the-hood perks. The core model will start at $299, with the performance model running a cool $799, Cotton said.
"One of the good things about the project is you can start out with the core model and upgrade it piece by piece to the performance level," he said.
A timeline for OutRunner's development has the Robotics Unlimited team finalizing the robot's design and smartphone app through the rest of 2014, with early models being shipped to Kickstarter backers late in the year.