Puma Built a Speedy Self-Driving Robot to Help Athletes Train


If you’re training to run faster than a speeding bullet—or a speeding Usain Bolt—Puma has created a robot trainer to help get you there. The Beatbot is a programmable self-driving robot designed for runners to race against, giving them a physical opponent to beat as they train.

Fast Company reports that the Beatbot is currently available to Puma-sponsored athletes only, though the company hopes to eventually develop a consumer version. The robot, which was developed with the help of a NASA robotics engineer and three MIT grads, uses infrared sensors to follow the line on a track. At the same time, wheel revolutions measure speed and distance.

Runners can set the Beatbot’s speed using an app, competing against their own best time, the time of an opponent, or even Olympic runner and current world-record holder Usain Bolt. In fact, the robot’s maximum speed of 44 km/hr is the same as Bolt's world record-setting 100-meter dash pace, which means that the athelete—who's helping Puma promote the Beatbot—might be the one runner in the world with little to gain from training against the speedy little gadget. 

The Beatbot was created for Puma by the ad agency J. Walter Thompson New York. JWT executive creative director Florent Imbert told Fast Company he believes the little robot opponent can help motivate runners to perform at their best. “We found a lot of anecdotal evidence that head to head competition raised performance levels, even a few studies that showed an uptick performance," he said. "But, to us, it felt like a human truth. Running against an invisible clock will never be as motivating as running against someone—or something."

Check out the Beatbot in action above.

[h/t Fast Company]

Banner Image Credit: PUMA, YouTube