Robot Rovers Poised for the Battlefield
Soldiers take the battlefield carrying as much as 70 pounds of gear on their backs, and have to lug it across all sorts of unfriendly terrain. Waltham, MA-based robotics company Boston Dynamics has come up with one possible solution:
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) or “AlphaDog” was financed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Marine Corps. It’s very animal-like movements are the result of innovative hydraulics and terrain sensors. The company expects to field test a completed version in 2012.
In addition to galloping like a horse and carrying up to 400 pounds of gear, the robot can hold enough fuel for missions covering 20 miles and lasting 24 hours, can stand up independently if it is knocked over, and climb over boulders. It can be programmed to automatically follow a leader using computer vision, or travel to specific destinations based on GPS coordinates.
The robot is clearly designed to mimic the gait of a dog or horse, but comments on various sites where the videos are posted have identified another possible model — those imposing imperial walkers (AT-ATs) from The Empire Strikes Back.
The company’s robots originally came to the public’s attention when a 2007 video of its original BigDog quadrupedal pack robot went viral (you can see a BigDog video here, and an amusing spoof of it here). And while the current prototypes seem like a noisy and expensive solution for hauling gear, it’s easy to envision lighter and more agile models being developed in the future — along with variants that have been outfitted with flamethrowers, rockets and machine guns.
You can watch the company’s current AlphaDog video below:
Source: Boston Dynamics