Puma's BeatBot races runners

Puma's BeatBot races runners
The Puma BeatBot, ready to roll
The Puma BeatBot, ready to roll
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The Puma BeatBot, ready to roll
The Puma BeatBot, ready to roll
The Puma BeatBot can move at least as fast as runner Usain Bolt
The Puma BeatBot can move at least as fast as runner Usain Bolt

If you're a serious competitive runner, then training on your own isn't always enough – you need someone else to race against. That said, a fast enough runner might not always be available. What do you do then? Well, if you're one of a lucky few, you may soon be able to use your Puma BeatBot robot.

The device was created by Puma's advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson New York, with some help from a NASA robotics engineer and a group of MIT students.

Looking not unlike a miniature Zamboni, it's equipped with nine downward-facing infrared sensors that can track straight or curved lines on the ground. With some help from an Arduino microcontroller and a 9-axis accelerometer, it can zip along a running track while following one of the existing lane-marking lines, making 100 steering adjustments a second to stay on target.

How fast can it go? Well, Puma hasn't stated a maximum speed, but it can match Usain Bolt's 100-meter dash world record of 44.7 km/h (27.4 mph).

The Puma BeatBot can move at least as fast as runner Usain Bolt
The Puma BeatBot can move at least as fast as runner Usain Bolt

Users start by utilizing an accompanying smartphone app, entering the distance that they plan on going, and the time they'd like to beat. They then place the BeatBot on the starting line alongside themselves, wait for it to beep three times, and then start running. It will move along on its own line, counting its wheel revolutions to determine its speed and distance travelled. If the user ends up beating it, they've achieved their goal.

Front and rear rows of LEDs help runners keep an eye on it in their peripheral vision, while forward and backward-facing GoPro cameras record their performance from the robot's point of view.

We're still waiting to hear back from Puma, but it sounds like the BeatBot will not be in a store near you anytime soon. Instead, plans call for select sponsored runners to receive the limited number of devices that are being made.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: Puma via Fast Company

Future of Faster | The PUMA BeatBot

I actually really like the idea and I wonder how hard it would be to bring the costs down to affordable. Radio controlled cars like Traxxas are able to go over 30 MPH and they are $200. The controller and line following tech would add some to the cost on top of that but it might be possible as a DIY Arduino or Rasberi Pi project.
Just being able to set this to my own time to race against myself would be amazingly useful. You could do things like set a goal and a date to get there and program the robot to get incrementally faster each time so you know what pace to keep to reach the goal.
Sometimes if my pace is slipping I don't realize it until I get my lap time but racing against this at a fixed pace you would have immediate feedback at any part of the track on how you are doing.
Realistically I don't see a large market of people competing against Usain Bolt's world record but there a lot of other uses for it too. I don't think I could beat Usain Bolt in the 100m with a bicycle.
...And people would steal it as soon as you set it on the ground.
Why is there always some thief worried about someone wanting to steal this or that product? Most thieves only steal things they can sell,or pawn,or otherwise make a profit from.....since it will only perform for the owners phone....the stolen bot would be rendered useless.......and become nothing but a bucket of parts......I like the bot,looks like a very useful tool...........LOL :-)