Did anyone else immediately start hearing Herbie Hancock's Rockit playing in the background when watching this video?
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.
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