You probably picture robots as clodhoppers: ponderous, clunky, even doddery droids that need caffeine, badly. But robots are on the brink of making giant strides. Just ask Columbia University engineering professor Hod Lipson, who writes in Nature that "young animals gallop across fields, climb trees, and immediately find their feet with grace after they fall"—and robots are set to follow suit.
Lipson is right. A new breed of speedy robots promises to eventually outdo the runners at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Notable cybernetic contenders include MIT's dominant Cheetah, Boston Dynamics' Petman and Handle, Michigan Robotics' MABEL, and—further afield in South Africa—the University of Cape Town's Baleka.