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Where Jules Verne Meets Star Wars: GE's Walking Truck

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Star Wars Prequels 57

An anonymous reader writes "This July 4th weekend, millions of Americans will head to the air-conditioned confines of their local multiplex to take in Harry Potter, Captain America and other summer blockbusters. A military relic that foreshadowed a sci-fi vehicle featured in perhaps the most popular summer movie of all time – Star Wars – is on exhibit at the U.S. Army Transportation Musem at Fort Eustis: GE's Pedipulator, or 'Walking Truck,' developed for the U.S. Army in the mid-'60s. GE's quadroped was first imagined and lumbered through its testing paces in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, starting in 1962, 15 years before George Lucas's AT-AT walkers debuted on the big screen."

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57 comments

You could say that it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587664)

Couldn't get it's foot in the door...

*glasses*

YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!

Where are these moviegoers?? (2)

BillCable (1464383) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587666)

Apparently all these moviegoers are in another dimension, as neither Harry Potter nor Captain America will be in theaters in ours this July 4th weekend...

Re:Where are these moviegoers?? (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587692)

That's just how futuristic this article is. It allows people to see movies even before they're released.

Where are these downloads?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587900)

Piratebay pioneered that tech.

Re:Where are these downloads?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36589700)

Kids these days. You could get movies online before their release before BitTorrent even existed, anymore Piratebay.

Re:Where are these moviegoers?? (1)

Bardez (915334) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587958)

Mel Brooks must be proud.

ugh.... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587694)

Turn in your nerd card subby. AT-ATs debuted in The Empire Strikes Back - 1980. That would be 18 years after 1962.

Re:ugh.... (1)

KatchooNJ (173554) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587734)

Bingo... I was just about to say this.

the good old days... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36588618)

when USA was busy inventing instead of suing.

Re:ugh.... (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36589330)

And yet, some dumbfuck modded me down [slashdot.org] for pointing this out.

Re:ugh.... (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36590112)

I'm sure sooner or later Lucas will release a version of Episode IV that has AT-ATs.

ESB (1980), not Star Wars (1977)? (1, Informative)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587700)

The "walking trucks" (AT-ATs) didn't appear until Empire Strikes Back, right?

Re:ESB (1980), not Star Wars (1977)? (1)

wideBlueSkies (618979) | more than 3 years ago | (#36592790)

Oh don't worry. Lucas is working on correcting your memory. In the next edition you will see scout AT-AT's scouring the jundland wastes for the droids.

Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (1)

Koreantoast (527520) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587750)

It would be interesting to see this project restarted with the tremendous advances in computing. The application of artificial intelligence could help alleviate many of the problems GE had with the constant manipulation of complex controls, particularly for traversing terrain.

Re:Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (1)

Shanrak (1037504) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587774)

Better yet, skip the four legs and go straight to bipedal motion. I want my own mechwarrior damnit!

Re:Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36594080)

The Japanese have a bipedal motion teleoperator suit for people who need extra strength at work e.g. longshoreman, and those who problems walking.

Re:Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587818)

Well, yes, it has restarted. Not for transporting people, but walking robots for transport duty in rough terrain are coming up quite nicely. See Big Dog [youtube.com] , for example.

Re:Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36588174)

But at least for the near future it won't be used for anything much bigger than that though. The fundamental problem with all these contraptions is visibility. In a war you want to have as low a profile as possible. In real life, a squad of Gundams would get owned by one or two Leopard or Abrams tanks.

Re:Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587918)

yes yes it has been done recently:

http://www.wonderhowto.com/news/wonderment/insanely-cool-john-deere-insect-tractor-0113459/

The issue with hydralics other than how slow these things are it would be insanely loud. There would be no mystery to where these things are opperating.

Re:Perhaps Workable Now with Computing Advances (1)

C1970H (811524) | more than 3 years ago | (#36590276)

It is workable now and has been for a few years... See the walking timberjack harvester - http://gizmodo.com/036148/plustech-walking-machine [gizmodo.com] Of course they needed 6 legs, not 4.

Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587752)

Didn't we just have a story about this? Or was it on Fark? Oh well. Yeah, in the '60s they tried a lot of cool things. Like rocket powered go-karts. Eventually people figured out those hobbies were lethal and now we are a society addicted to video games and putting music in the cloud. In 40 years we'll laugh at that too.

Video (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587754)

I found a video of the contraption that is shown in one of the pictures of TFA here [britishpathe.com] . Conspicuously, it only shows a daring engineer rocking back and forth in the cockpit, while never showing the legs of the thing actually moving. Would be great if anyone could dig up more video of this. Needs more brass wheels and handles to qualify for proper steampunk, though.

Re:Video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587872)

I think you mean: Needs more cowbell!

Re:Video (1)

softWare3ngineer (2007302) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587908)

Don't forget the smoke stacks out the back.

Re:Video (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36594628)

Here you go: this [youtube.com] video includes it walking, climbing, lifting and moving objects, and not crushing a lightbulb.

With todays technology (1)

Normal Dan (1053064) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587790)

These types of walkers might be practical. Unmanned robotic vehicles able to walk up steps and open doors might be the next "drone". Smaller versions could search homes of suspected terrorists without fear of getting blown up.

Re:With todays technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587846)

Even smaller versions could be used to spy on the citizenry.

Re:With todays technology (2)

Sinthet (2081954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588186)

I've always wondered if you could create an EMP generator that is weak enough not to destroy consumer electronics but fry spy devices... This might amount to a pipe-dream, since I've forgotten exactly how these things work, but it'd be the only way to ensure your privacy short of discharging an actual full-scale EMP in an area where you know you don't have any "friendly" electronics.

A good early piece of work (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587808)

That's a well-known early development in walking machines. Technically it's closer to being an exoskeleton than a robot. It's slaved to the limbs of the guy inside, and is dependent on his balance reflexes. That didn't work out too well.

It took a long time to get legged machines to work well. Most early work was about gait and foot coordination. It turns out that balance is more important than gait, and slip control is more important than balance. It finally all came together with BigDog. (BigDog demonstrates that the technology was finally far enough along that throwing $20 million at the problem was a win. Money alone is not enough; see the Flight Telerobotic Servicer [astronautix.com] , on which NASA blew over $200 million in the late 1980s. DARPA also funded a 6-legged walking truck [youtube.com] in the 1980s, but it never got beyond a slow walk on easy terrain.)

The GE walker dates from an era when American industry tried to push the state of the art with ambitious internal research projects. That's rare in the US today. But in Germany, there's Festo [festo.com] . Every year, Festo does an impressive robotics project. [festo.com] They've done a flexible manta ray which swims through water; it's highly maneuverable and moves and looks like a real manta ray. Most recently, they built a robot bird, which flies around gracefully and under good control.

Re:A good early piece of work (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588002)

I remember seeing a four legged running robot on Nova. It to a VAX to control it. At the time I thought "well that is useless it takes a freaking VAX". Well now that I have the power of many VAXen in my cell phone it doesn't seem that bad of an idea at all.
We have so much computing power in our hands that things like this are getting much easier. Of course I do not think we will ever see Mechs for the simple reason that a tank is a much smaller target and can probably be better armored.

Re:A good early piece of work (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588052)

The idea of mechs is that they go where tanks don't. This could theoretically be possible for a stable walker with 4+ legs. As it is we have different grades of tank; if heavier armor were all that mattered they'd all be MBTs. Probably not going to have humanoid combat robots any time soon, though. Powered armor is substantially more likely.

Re:A good early piece of work (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36591420)

Powered Armor is actually more likely. I do agree with you on that one. Today anything but MBTs are really rare. You have a few light tanks but mostly you have MBTs. The issue with Mechs is they tend to be tall and the goal with tanks is to be as low as possible so they are hard to see. Even a four leg walker is going to be pretty tall. Thing is that wheels are actually more efficient over flat terrain. Legs work well on very rocky. Thing is that any Mech is going to be a great target for an AH-64, A-10, and or a Drone packing a Hellfire.

Re:A good early piece of work (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36593082)

I wonder if urban will be the battleground of choice of these things. Tanks seems to have a real problem with urban areas.

Re:A good early piece of work (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 3 years ago | (#36596740)

Tanks and Armor in general do best in an open plain they are really optimized for that. If are are going to try an build armor for an urban environment you would make very different trade offs. For one thing speed probably wouldn't matter as much since you are not likely to need to go 50 MPH. Armor would be the big factor. You would want heavy protection on top and all sides. You will probably not need a 120MM gun since odds are that you are not going to engage other tanks at long distances. Again a walker doesn't really help here at all. Again something like powered personal battle armor is probably the best option but even that may be too large and slow. The simple truth is that fighting door to door is going to take time, be dirty, and cost a lot of lives for what you gain. It is the reason why armies for centuries would just lay siege or destroy urban targets outright. The idea is that most cites would surrender instead of being destroyed or suffer starvation from a siege they are unlikely to win. Until we have man shaped battle bots I fear that we will not have a good way to wage urban warfare. Frankly I question if having battle bots going door to door in an urban warfare setting can really be a good thing. Frankly I find the idea deeply disturbing. Seems to me that if a goal is deemed worth killing for it should be worth risking lives for as well.

Re:A good early piece of work (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36598518)

I would argue a drone IS a mech, doesn't matter if the operator is inside or far away in some comfy air conditioned room.

Re:A good early piece of work (1)

Sinthet (2081954) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588214)

Agreed, I think Mech-Suits/Dreadnought (40k, hell yea) will exist only as a nerdy graduate students final project. The cooler they are, the less practical they seem.

sometimes you do something just 'cuz it's cool... (2)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#36589222)

You can't fight city hall, but sometimes you can knock it the fuck over [damninteresting.com] .

why do all that hardwork... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36589010)

The GE walker dates from an era when American industry tried to push the state of the art with ambitious internal research projects. That's rare in the US today.

Why do all that hard work when it's easier to be a patent troll? A a few patents and scumbag lawyers could net millions with near zero efforts, as opposed to actually producing something tangible.

Pittsfield... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587838)

The pedipulator got bored of Pittsfield and left, starting the trend. Last one exiting, please turn off the lights.

Boston Dynamics Big Dog (3, Informative)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587852)

Check out this robo-mule. It runs of a two-stroke engine and can withstand a kick to the side. The way in which it corrects itself in realtime is no different than that of a real animal. In fact, the motion is kinda creepy. A four legged headless beast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHJJQ0zNNOM [youtube.com]

Re:Boston Dynamics Big Dog (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36593100)

Now to give it some buzzsaw jaws and some target tracking sensors.

15 Years? (0)

Strange Quark Star (1157447) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587904)

There are walkers in Star Wars? I thought the came out in Empire Strikes Back, that is 18 years after 1962. Hand in your Star Wars card, please.

Re:15 Years? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588878)

Of course the designs were done by Ralph McQuarrie in 1978-79 so you're both wrong. The movie came out after the plan for it.

math (1)

icylucifer (773383) | more than 3 years ago | (#36587906)

Eighteen years before, not fifteen. AT-ATs didn't show up until The Empire Strikes Back, in 1980.

Re:math (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588112)

But Lucas had obviously planned for the AT-ATs already in 1977, just like he always planned on making the prequels so they could be viewed in episodic order in such a way that this would ruin every surprise in the 'later' 3 movies.

This one is for James Bond (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36587982)

Shaken, not stirred

Walking Tree Harvester (2)

flatass (866368) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588652)

Commercial example of this technology here [youtube.com]

sounds good (2)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36588870)

This July 4th weekend, millions of Americans will head to the air-conditioned confines of their local multiplex to take in Harry Potter, Captain America

Sounds good. I'm curious to see how they combined the fantasy wizardry of Harry Potter with the comic book antics of Captain America. I'm also curious to see whether they will address the back story - obviously there must be quite an interesting tale of how Harry abandoned his homeland and became a symbol of American values.

Or maybe I should learn to read ;)

Scroll down the article page, meatbags... (1)

RevWaldo (1186281) | more than 3 years ago | (#36589036)

...and bite my shiny metal ass! [gereports.com]

.

Re:Scroll down the article page, meatbags... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36590626)

Lacking-human-sensing-robot honestly deserves meme status. Somebody should get to work on it.

As for old stuff that's cool, anyone else like Admiral Byrd's Snow Cruiser? May not be a walker, but it has a bit more style. It's like Johnny Quest stuff made real.

Gerry Anderson was way before Star Wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36589856)

1964 or 65 with Sidewinder in the Pit of Peril. Oddly similar to the GE sketch with the tree grabbing claws

Cranes walking since 1913 (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36590650)

Dragline excavators have been available in walking models since engineer Oscar Martinson put a Monighan dragline crane on his invention, the Martinson Walker in 1913. Type "walking dragline" into youtube and watch those bad boys boogie in slow-mo!

Minor quibble (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 3 years ago | (#36591914)

The AT-ATs are awesome machines, though they did not debut on the big screen in 1977. They first appeared in 1980, in The Empire Strikes Back.

GE Also Made "Iron Man" Exoskeleton in 1950's (1)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 3 years ago | (#36592068)

In 1958 GE made a full-body exoskeleton called (no kidding) Iron Man. It was capable of picking up refrigerators! To quote Hizook [hizook.com] :

Ralph Mosher, an engineer working for General Electric in the 1950s, developed a robotic exoskeleton called Hardiman. The mechanical suit, consisting of powered arms and legs, could give him superhuman strength. Mosher subsequently made a simpler version that permitted him to sit in his chair and pick up refrigerators.

Re:GE Also Made "Iron Man" Exoskeleton in 1950's (1)

HizookRobotics (1722346) | more than 3 years ago | (#36592094)

Bah! The exoskeleton wasn't "called" Iron Man... I meant to say "akin to" Iron Man. The early force / torque control that they developed strongly reminds me of Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Incidentally, GE's Hardiman actually predated that novel!

Walking still slower than rolling (1)

puhuri (701880) | more than 3 years ago | (#36592618)

At 1997 John Deere developed Plusjack [treeblog.co.uk] in a venture Plustech [archive.org] .

Unfortunately, it was too slow compared to wheeled counterpart even if it made very little damage to forest floor. But for very sensitive environments a man and a horse are more efficient considering the cost of the harvester. Only 3 units were build, one is at display at Lusto forest museum [lusto.fi] .

A competitor, owner of Ponsse, Einari Vidgren was claimed to say: "If they make walking harvester, we make a running one".

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