As stated on the company web site, Boston Dynamics is working on changing our idea of what robots can do. Their Cheetah robot made headlines by beating Usain Bolt’s running speed record. And one of their other robots – Big Dog, gets better and better all the time.
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) AKA Big Dog is a dynamic robot designed to go anywhere Soldiers and Marines go on foot. Each LS3 will carry up to 400 lbs of gear and enough fuel for missions covering 20 miles and lasting 24 hours. LS3 will not need a driver, because it will automatically follow a leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using sensing and GPS. Big Dog might also serve as a mobile auxiliary power source to the squad, allowing soldiers to recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol.The development of LS3 is being funded by DARPA and the US Marine Corps.
As you would see on the videos below, there is still a lot of work before Big Dog is ready for the battlefield. Still, I think the company is making impressive progress.
LS3 Follow Tight (mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot)
Working with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), researchers from DARPA’s LS3 program demonstrated new advances in the robot’s control, stability and maneuverability, including “Leader Follow” decision making, enhanced roll recovery, exact foot placement over rough terrain, the ability to maneuver in an urban environment, and verbal command capability.
DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3) Demonstrates New Capabilities
This video depicts field testing of the DARPA Legged Squad Support System (LS3). The goal of the LS3 program is to demonstrate that a legged robot can unburden dismounted squad members by carrying their gear, autonomously following them through rugged terrain, and interpreting verbal and visual commands.
Marines take “Big Dog” for walkies in the woods
U.S. robotics company Boston Dynamics has been giving its latest mechanical pack mule a run around Fort Myer in Virginia, where Marine Corps commanders are assessing its viability as a 21st Century support robot.
Original story by Rob Muir for Reuters:
Transcript: For “Big Dog” – officially known as the Legged Squadron Support System – this was the latest in a series of trials by the US MarineCorp to see if a robotic pack mule could successfully be integrated with soldiers and marines in the field. Its developers say Big Dog’s future looks bright.
The robot has been designed by Massachusetts company Boston Dynamics, to follow soldiers and marines on foot over a variety of terrains. It can carry up to 400 lbs of equipment over 20 miles without refuelling. It can either follow a leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using GPS and other sensors. Big Dog might also serve as a mobile auxiliary power source to the squad, allowing soldiers to recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol.
The robot will be refined and regularly tested over two years. It will eventually be embedded with marines conducting exercises in the field. By that time, Big Dog’s developers say their beast should be able to follow verbal commands and if it frightens the enemy into submission as well, that’s an added bonus.