Robot Runs on 6 Legs But Never More Than 2 at a Time


Looking at this legged robot gives us the same feeling we had the first time we saw a two-wheeled balancer. At first glance it just shouldn’t work, but after a little thought it makes a lot of sense. The six-legged bot called OutRunner uses two sets of three legs to propel itself. The  footfalls are staggered to mimic how a biped runs, but mechanically it’s just spinning wheels to which the legs attach. If you have a smart enough algorithm it will not only remain upright but be steerable too.

This is a Kickstarter offering to let you can get your hands on an unassembled kit for $200. That version comes with a universal camera mount but no camera. This may not sound like a problem, but look closer and you may notice what we have: The thing is remote-controlled and can run up to 20 MPH, but there’s not footage of it running slowly. We’d wager the need to keep itself balanced equates to the need to run rather than walk. Since it’s going to get away from you very quickly you probably need a camera and a wearable display (or a chase car like in the video) to make the most out of the OutRunner. But hey, who’s complaining about that? Sounds like a ton of fun to us!

Why is it that this thing looks delightful but all of the Boston Dynamics running bots scare the crap out of us?

[Thanks John]


  1. 112358 says:

    It’s definitely cool but can’t see to many uses for this except as a currier of small object in rescue attempts in long hallways where speed is an issue or self destruct attacks. Maybe some kind of racing league…

    • Mike Szczys says:

      The same can be said for quadcopters but I have a grand time flying my Syma X1

      • Maxwell says:

        That’s really not a fair comparison, quadcopters have much more versatility in terms of ability- notably, staying in place and moving slowly. They also can lift sizable weight, and y’know, there’s the whole flying bit.

        This however, is a cool, if unrefined, racing robot.

        • Emerica says:

          Please keep in mind that racing itself has pushed vehicle development miles ahead over the past century, motorcycles, cars/trucks. Having the title as the fastest, new robotic teams looking for speed will now have this as a benchmark and it hopefully helps them to think different in terms of mobility.
          Why not the best of both worlds?
          I could envision is a bigger robot like this one with recessed extendible rotors inside the legs and some folding ability. It could give the robot the ability to fly like a quad copter, but still move speedily on the ground, if the air conditions were poor.
          Build it and people will find uses for it. Open your minds.
          Don’t close your minds because someone thinks something is useless.

    • JonDecker says:

      Depending on how it handles terrain, it could be a good line runner for checking failed detonations during demolition.

  2. gaijo says:

    It’s very nice but I hate them for making money out of it. It should be fully open sourced like Linux, otherwise it’s a piece of crap.

    • I won’t rise to the bait of trying to argue with you, since I know it would be pointless – suffice it to say that’s one of the most ignorant comments I’ve seen in a while. “Making money from something = piece of crap”. What a hoot.

      • Dan Julio says:

        It’s never worth it Lindsay. They’re either trolling or ignorant. Notice how they never provide a link so we can go see what magnificent makers/hackers/creators they are. I suspect because they’re the type to always criticize, never do.

        The people who actually do things appreciate the efforts of others and it shows, even if they are giving constructive criticism.

        • gaijo says:

          You don’t have to be a music critic to tell that this is a piece of shit. Same goes for this robot.

          • mlaga97 says:

            The robot can be improved, but you can’t improve something until it has already been created and tested; it’s a start, calm down. In addition, I think that is a good song. Not excellent, but certainly not bad.

          • John says:

            And if it was open source other people around the world could already have started that testing.

          • Hirudinea says:

            @ gaijo – “It’s very nice but I hate them for making money out of it.”

            Really, it’s bad that they’re making money from it? Here’s a song I think you’ll enjoy more than the one you linked to comrade.

          • “So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money?” – Francisco D’Anconia

            Couldn’t resist quoting, since I’m reading it for the hundredth time…

            @Hirudinea [Re: Internationale] Yep – great tune, pure evil words. It’s been a while since I’ve heard it so went back and looked at the lyrics again. Pretty frightening.

            @gaijo [Re: "Co ty mi dasz"] I hate to say it, but I actually kinda like that song ;-) I listen to a lot of Disco Polo (no, I don’t speak/understand Polish) mainly for the electronic sound and rhythm. But I know that most Polish people think it’s pretty awful!

          • name says:

            “Yep – great tune, pure evil words. ”
            @Lindsay Wilson can you give a link to the evil words, please?

  3. roboman2444 says:

    The leg configuration makes it not really able to run on anything other than flat surfaces.
    With a 200$ hobby rc car being able to reach 30mph easily, go over much rougher terrain, and have much better handling, it kindof seems like a moot point. You can also slap 200$ worth of motor, esc, and lithium battery into the thing and get it to 50mph.

    I guess this project is more for “its cool” and not for “its functional”.

  4. no-name says:

    Can this robot start from 0mph or does it always need to be launched as shown in the video?

  5. Thinkerer says:

    “Why is it that this thing looks delightful but all of the Boston Dynamics running bots scare the crap out of us?”

    It’s an artifact of the “Uncanny Valley” phenomenon ( Humans and their predecessors evolved with quadrapeds, some of which were predators. Mechanical ones that move a bit oddly, and particularly with threatening speed (and whirring generators in their guts) are instinctively threatening, like a lot of the relentless monsters in videos. Not much different than a Transformers bit player.

  6. According to the footage, I don’t really see the advantage over simple wheels, specially if it needs inertia to work…

  7. Jan says:

    Um, why not just bolt two wheels on the thing instead of the legs? It would be equally fast, if not faster and much simpler and cheaper due to simpler control system …

    I don’t really see much advantage of this setup over a wheeled robot.

  8. Bob says:

    The shock absorbing “legs” look cool, but lets call a spade a spade. That’s a 2 wheeled pendulum balanced robot. The only thing leaving off the circumference of the wheel off of the spokes did for them is make it so they couldn’t stop without falling over.

  9. Markus says:

    While very cute and a bit interesting it’s a bit much to compare with “legged robots”, more like “robot with odd wheels”. Other than the terminology and a bit over the top descriptions of their work I think it looks like a nice toy. Not of much practical use, but neither are my rc hobby vehicles :).

    One on topic note, I didn’t see any examples of hand-starting or stopping in the video or presentation, did I miss it or are the only examples car-start and that sidways catapult-thing?

  10. I want one!
    Not sure what I’d do with it but I love it.

  11. vonskippy says:

    The design’s not finished, manufacturing/production/delivery isn’t even a wet dream yet, and the team is untested.

    Yea, I’m sure they’ll make their $150K goal for a dorky rc vehicle (in no way does that “thing” fall under the robot category).

  12. omegacs says:

    Very vaguely reminds me of Bruce Sterling’s “Heavy Weather”. An ex-military vehicle with a conventional 4-“wheel” design, but the wheels are composed of a huge number of powered pistons, like a tactile table wrapped onto a tire. As a result it has “perfect” suspension and the pistons are powerful enough to make the whole vehicle go airborne.

    Of course, this robot doesn’t appear to have anything more than springs on each of the piston legs, so… nevermind ;-(

  13. OSHbots says:

    1) That’s not a robot. (RC vehicle)
    2) Those aren’t legs (Whegs)

  14. anonymous coward says:

    Straight from Aperture Science Lab.
    forerunner (hah!) of the Portal gun turret

  15. Big Dave says:

    So many haters! This is a really cool start to a running bipedal robot. All they need to do next is reduce it to having just 2 legs that reciprocate back and forth (the forward stroke being much faster than the backward one) and then speed it up.

  16. jimd says:

    Interesting and I like it though it does seem less functional than wheels and I don’ know that it will “change the status quo” – that just seems like a slightly arrogant attitude . I would put little shoes on it.

  17. rasz_pl says:

    and I have a running bike

  18. Michael says:

    Humans invented the wheel….and it was good…….so good that it hasnt really needed to change since it was invented.

    quit screwing around with overly complicated bike spokes that you call “legs”, and just use a wheel…….

    your design isnt ‘innovative’ , and it doesnt solve any problems………you show your ignorance as an engineer by creating a convoluted solution to a problem that doesnt exist…….

    • I could see these as wheels with extremely high traction. It would have been nice if they focused on some ability that wheels do not have. Like in the demos of the Rhex.

      For now it seems a bit like trying to circumvent the rules by calling it bipedal.

  19. Peanutbutter says:

    I want to see some encoder wheels, and software that can make it balance at a standstill, I don’t see why it couldn’t be done, would probably be creepier then.

  20. orange says:

    This looks much like the IHMC’s robot from the DARPA Robotics Challenge.

  21. Antidata says:

    I really wonder what the point of this robot is. I guess people that work in robotics aren’t so stupid that they spend months or years working on something which in the end turns out to be just a funny wheel like some people suggest.

    So instead of hating and flaming couldn’t we just wonder and then discuss this point?

    I’ll try to make a start:
    With the functionality the ‘robot’ has now these ‘legs’ really just imitate the functionality of simple wheels. But this functionality is extendible! If you make the individual legs more flexible and controlable you really could navigate fairly stable through very rough terrain, which would be impossible with normal wheels.

  22. andrewmk2000 says:

    Could be a first step on the road to Snowcrash style smartwheels –

  23. assdf says:

    This is exactly the same concept as our senior project! Cooool.

    Unfortunately the concept itself has some major problems. Mainly the legs could easily be replaced by compliant wheels and nothing is lost or gained. Contrary to what you might think, those legs can’t handle rough terrain. It can probably compensate for the ‘occasional’ bump in the road, but running over a continuous stretch of rough, ever-changing, terrain results in bumps, falls and/or stuck/broke legs.

    Neat looking remote controlled car though.

  24. The comments on the Yahoo version of this story are funnier..

    Although it reminds me of the Dancing Wu Li Masters

    and this:

  25. jacques says:

    the problem is that it can’t stop or even slow down and turn back

  26. Tony says:

    I dont understand… its just a wheel? the legs rotate 360 degrees like any other driving robot.. what

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