For years, some tech pundits have worried that robots and software will gradually replace human workers in key industries such as manufacturing and IT administration. Now they have something else to fret over: Robots replacing the world’s hurdlers. MIT just announced that its researchers have programmed a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles without a prompt from a human controller. The machine’s onboard sensors rely on reflected laser-light to judge obstacles’ distance and height, and use that data to fuel the algorithm for a safe jump. The robot’s controlling algorithm takes into account such factors as the speed needed to launch its mass over the obstacle, the best position for a jump, and the amount of energy required from the onboard electric motor. As of this writing, the robot can clear 90 percent of obstacles on an open track. “A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior,” Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is quoted as saying in a university press release. “You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors.” Olympic track-and-field stars, watch out: The machines are coming for your job.