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Get along, big doggie.
March 3, 2006 9:06 PM   Subscribe

BigDog! Check out this video (Windows Media) of the new packhorse for the infantry! "A nimble, four-legged robot is so surefooted it can recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick," A robotic beast of burden from the same guys that brought us weaponized bees and robotic rats. It's a cool concept for a robot, better than most I've seen.
posted by Balisong (39 comments total)

 
"Half of the earth's surface is inaccessible to wheels and tracks. But people and animals can walk anywhere," Raibert told me a while back. "We wanted a vehicle that could do the same."

I suggest a boat.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:11 PM on March 3, 2006


that thing creeps me out in the same way the empty green pants with nobody inside them do. noisy little bugger too.
posted by bizwank at 9:28 PM on March 3, 2006


Would these be the robotic dogs with robotic bees in their mouths, and when they bark they shoot robotic bees at you?
posted by uosuaq at 9:31 PM on March 3, 2006


Honest question: are EMPs viable weapons, and what will the army do with the supplies BigDogs are carrying if the enemy fires one up near by?
posted by Jimbob at 9:31 PM on March 3, 2006


I'm not understanding how this is superior to a camel or mule.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:32 PM on March 3, 2006


Yeah, not for sneaking up on the enemy.
Might be cool as a robot sherpa. Let's see it climb Everest.
I think it's gas powered. I wonder what the range is on a full tank.
posted by Balisong at 9:33 PM on March 3, 2006


According to the CIA's annually-published World Factbook, "the US is the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels," yet the Environmental Protection Agency's "National Center for Environmental Innovation" is a far cry from a DARPA-like entity. It doled out a mere $737,500 in seven state-innovation grants in 2003. DARPA, by comparison, spent about $3 billion on some 200 projects that ranged from space weapons to unmanned aerial vehicles.

Once again, Metafilter fuels my outrage fatigue.
posted by mert at 9:35 PM on March 3, 2006


I'd be inclined to believe that the noise would be a deal killer in some situations. So I guess this is a behind the lines kind of thing?

"Half of the earth's surface is inaccessible to wheels and tracks."

This bit would indicate they have work to do -- the video shows it only working in places that are accessible to wheels and tracks. The two semi-tough spots (the little hill and the mud) already show signs of noticeable performance degradation, so I'm skeptical that it would actually work on very rough terrain.

It's pretty amazing technology, regardless, though. And a little bit creepy.
posted by teece at 9:37 PM on March 3, 2006


I'm pretty sure this is a hoax. It's one of two things:

1) a vivisected cow desperately searching for food or a cliff to jump off (notice it's never walking on grass); or

2) it's two Mummenschanz mimes searching for a home to toilet paper.

The second theory makes more sense, as you see people repeatedly kicking the thing.
posted by Davenhill at 9:37 PM on March 3, 2006


Now as soon as DARPA invents the gravity gun I can use this to play catch with rollermines.
posted by Tenuki at 9:48 PM on March 3, 2006



Yeah, not for sneaking up on the enemy. ...
I think it's gas powered.


For certain there is another group somewhere working on the quietest gas engines.

I can really see these as moral boosters, especially if you can kick them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:06 PM on March 3, 2006


Jimbob: I can't vouch for robotic dogs, but most stuff that the military procures (radios, vehicles) have to meet shielding requirements to protect them from the effects of EMP weapons. At least they did in the 90s.

This reminds me of the four legged robots they used to dog & pony at the now defunct Boston Computer Museum back in the 80s.
posted by furtive at 10:09 PM on March 3, 2006


OMG I just saw the video and that was the creepiest thing I've seen in a long time. The gf is terrified right now. Those dancing legs are way too human/animal like.
posted by furtive at 10:11 PM on March 3, 2006


This is the pack mule you take on your trip down the uncanny valley.
posted by phrontist at 10:16 PM on March 3, 2006


I assume these things are scalable.
posted by Balisong at 10:17 PM on March 3, 2006


That indeed is the creepiest motherfucker to come buzzing out of the uncanny valley yet. Thank god I can kick harder than the guys that built it.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 10:22 PM on March 3, 2006


I want to see it jump over a chainlink fence.
posted by Balisong at 10:28 PM on March 3, 2006


omg, that is so much more bizarre and creepy-but-cool in the clip than the photos would indicate.
Great post, Balisong, thanks.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:40 PM on March 3, 2006


A very cool piece of robotics, and pretty squarely in the uncanny valley.

I thought the choice of knee orientation was interesting. The fact that this robot has backward front and forward back knees, unlike any living quadruped, makes it even more strange to watch its gaits. I wonder what factors prompted this decision.
posted by musicinmybrain at 10:59 PM on March 3, 2006


Snort! Worse than useless in rugged terrain, and it looks (and acts) like a horse suit with one ass facing the wrong direction. Pretty noisy, too, judging from the earmuffs worn by the skinners.

There's a lot more grass than gas in undeveloped countries. At least some bipeds have a little more horse sense: Army Mules Poised to Make Comeback (2006). More on the The Use of Horses and Mules in Modern Warfare (1928).
posted by cenoxo at 11:09 PM on March 3, 2006


Okay, so the robots are sort of cool, but honestly. Mules and goats. They aren't this noisy, you can train them, and I assume they use less energy. Call me a luddite, but what's the point of wasting so many recources on these 'bots?
posted by maryh at 11:32 PM on March 3, 2006


Frank Reade was ahead of his time.
posted by tellurian at 11:36 PM on March 3, 2006


It is nearer hilarious than scary if you think of two guys in a costume shop, both of whom put on the back end of a horse.
posted by Cranberry at 11:36 PM on March 3, 2006


Here are some wind-powered ones. But, they're prolly not all-terrain.
posted by wsg at 12:07 AM on March 4, 2006 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah. Those are all sfw video links above.
posted by wsg at 12:08 AM on March 4, 2006


Did anyone else immediately start hearing Herbie Hancock's Rockit playing in the background when watching this video?
posted by jaimev at 1:04 AM on March 4, 2006


My first thought upon viewing this was a scary one.
This prototype's descendants, fuel-cell powered, silent, many times faster and more nimble, bounding in packs over a devastated urban landscape in pursuit of fleeing human prey.
posted by nightchrome at 1:56 AM on March 4, 2006


Did anyone else immediately start hearing Herbie Hancock's Rockit playing in the background when watching this video?
No, but watching the video triggered a bout of heebie-jeebies I haven't experienced since high school. Thanks =)

It occurred to me the BigDog is long and narrow - perfect for providing land transportation to a shark. Put this story together with the revelation that the Pentagon is researching brain implants in sharks that will allow humans to control them remotely... and you've got yourself frighteningly hilarious new killing machine.
posted by Davenhill at 2:28 AM on March 4, 2006


Your first thought was about mounting a shark on top of that thing?
Man, I thought *I* was weird...
posted by nightchrome at 3:22 AM on March 4, 2006


You know, this is a meme that just won't go away in the Army. I remember seeing artwork showcasing this thirty years ago. It'll never happen, but every ten years somebody gets a bunch of money to rediscover why not.
posted by atchafalaya at 3:33 AM on March 4, 2006


Mechapushmepullyou!

I am very sorry I did a Google Image Search for pushmepullyou just now. nsfw!
posted by emelenjr at 5:43 AM on March 4, 2006


Somebody put a Aphex Twin or Squarepusher track under that, and you've got the next Chris Cunningham video.
posted by fungible at 6:39 AM on March 4, 2006


I can't imagine how loud 100 of those would be?
posted by Mr_Zero at 7:50 AM on March 4, 2006


atchafalaya said: You know, this is a meme that just won't go away in the Army. I remember seeing artwork showcasing this thirty years ago.

General Electric's Walking Truck (1968)



From The Guardian, 2/24/2005:
The US Army Tactical Command has called for a robotic mule, for which BigDog is the precursor. It is an irony that as technology increases, soldiers are weighed down with more and more kit, from satellite navigation to battlefield computers, and loads can often exceed 40kg. The mule will be a semi-autonomous robot that will accompany soldiers on terrain unsuitable for wheeled vehicles, providing a modern equivalent of the traditional pack mule. For this role it needs to be capable of matching human marching pace.

This is not the first time the US army has ventured into this area. In 1968, it contracted General Electric to build the Quadruped Transporter, otherwise known as the Walking Truck, for the jungles of Vietnam. Designed by Ralph Mosher [Moser], it looked like a car with legs instead of wheels. A petrol engine powered the hydraulics, and the driver controlled the legs using his own arms and legs. It carried out impressive demonstrations, including climbing on to a platform built out of railway sleepers.

However, the Walking Truck was cumbersome and required a skilled operator, due to the limitations of the electronics of the day. The program was cancelled; perhaps its most conspicuous legacy was to provide the inspiration for the Imperial Combat Walkers of The Empire Strikes Back.
It'll never happen, but every ten years somebody gets a bunch of money to rediscover why not.

And to rediscover that we need even more mechanical stuff to carry our stuff around.
posted by cenoxo at 10:04 AM on March 4, 2006


It's safe to say this will never be used practically. Its descendants, though, will be far superior to any horse or mule. No one supersedes millions of years of evolution overnight.
posted by Maxson at 10:06 AM on March 4, 2006


Or thousands of years of mythology. Let's get bioengineering into the mix and slash the development time.
posted by cenoxo at 10:17 AM on March 4, 2006


That's damn cool; I just came across it independently, and actually came here and searched before I posted it to the front page. I agree that the legs are eerily creepy in their movement -- I thought it looked like it was prancing across the ground, excited to be given its pack mule tasks. The two cycle engine noise also rooted my brain to RC airplane and go-kart memories...

When someone gets off their ass and develops long-lasting and durable batteries, this thing is going to be unstoppable.
posted by delfuego at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2006


Sure it can correct itself, but can it transform into a giant mechanized robot and fight the Decepticons? I think not.
posted by Hexidecimal at 7:28 PM on March 4, 2006


Some things to consider about robo-pooch.

If it's powered by a two-stroke engine it's going to need to carry it's own fuel supply. If it's not muffled, it's going to give away any troop's position that's using it. If it has fuel on board, either in it's fuel tank or carrying it's own fuel (do you think the troops should have to do this?), once the shooting starts and that thing's hit, it could blow up further endangering the troops safety.

Interesting idea, I just don't see any real purpose for it in a combat environment.

In conclusion re the 'ain't it cute' angle, imagine that thing mounting a machine gun, shotgun, turret-mounted weapon and it's chasing you down in your small third-world country. Seem cute now? I didn't think so.
posted by mk1gti at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2006


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