Ryuma Niiyama, a postdoctoral associate at the Department of Mechano-Informatics at the University of Tokyo, is working on building a robot that can outrun humans. Athlete Robot debuted just this month: It has a long way to go before it will be able to beat even me on the track (and I'm no runner), but Niiyama is making progress.

"The bipedal robot's upper legs are modeled on the human musculoskeletal system, while the lower legs are fashioned from the spring-like blades that amputee runners use (and use so effectively that some have called the blades an unfair advantage)," Eliza Strickland explained on Discover magazine's blog. "The challenge is to get all those artificial muscles working in sequence as the bot bounds across the landscape."

The robot shown at the beginning of the video is a prototype from 2007 that eventually led to the development of Athlete Robot. Niiyama will continue working until he reaches the Holy Grail of robot design.

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