Can you beat Puma's trainer bot? BeatBot is meant to push runners further and can keep up with Usain Bolt's record. (via Puma)


Usain Bolt is better known as the fastest person ever timed. He's the first man to have world records in both the 100 meters and 200 meters race. He gained worldwide notoriety after his double victory at the Beijing Games and his list of achievements keeps going. It's enough to earn him the nickname “Lightning Bolt.” But this fastest man has some competition on his tail and it's not human. In a literal race of man vs machine, Puma has introduced BeatBot, a robot made to push runners to go harder and faster. And here's the kicker: it can match Bolt's 2009 foot-speed world record of 44.6 kph.


Created for Puma by J. Walter Thompson agency and a group of MIT engineers, BeatBot looks like a shoebox on wheels. But looks are deceiving as it has nine built-in infrared sensors made to follow the lines of a race track as it zooms along at a pre-determined pace. Runners can also input the time and distance of the race they want, put BeatBox on the starting line next to them, and watch it go. This allows runners to race against their personal best time or their rival's best.


But how does BeatBot know where to go? It works by scanning lines on the track with its sensors, while wheel rotations are monitored via Arduino to keep track of its distance and speed. The bot also has LED lights on the back and dual GoPro cameras that allows runners to review their run and possibly even upload it to Youtube just to show off. The data the bot picks up is then processed in real time to make more than 100 maneuvers per second to stay on the line, navigate tight turns, and ultimately cross the finish line.


The team had to go through various prototypes before they built a bot that could reliably stay on the line and around corners at 44km/h. “We went through over eight prototypes, and interrogated every aspect of the robot, from the weight of the car, to the lag between the Arduino and servo,” says JWT creative director Florent Imbert. “We even enlisted the expertise of a NASA robotics engineer and three MIT grads.”


This is gonna be expensive isn't it? Yeah, it is though no exact price has been set. But before you start saving up for your own BeatBox, know that Puma isn't making these for the masses just yet. For now, BeatBot will only be offered to Puma-sponsored teams and athletes, like Usain Bolt. There are plans to introduce BeatBot to various athletic program later on this year. Now that there's a machine that can keep up with the fastest runner, humans have to push themselves to be better. Or we can always hold out for the robot olympics.



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