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DARPA's Headless Robotic Mule Takes Load Off Warfighters

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the tenser-approved dept.

The Military 210

Hugh Pickens writes writes "If robots are ever really going to carry the equipment of US soldiers and Marines, they're going to have to act more like pack animals. Now Terri Moon Cronk reports that DARPA's semiautonomous Legged Squad Support System — also known as the LS3 — will carry 400 pounds of warfighter equipment and walk 20 miles at a time also acting as an auxiliary power source for troops to recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol. 'It's about solving a real military problem: the incredible load of equipment our soldiers and Marines carry in Afghanistan today,' says Army Lt. Col. Joseph K. Hitt, program manager in DARPA's tactical technology office. The robot's sensors allow it to navigate around obstacles at night, maneuver in urban settings, respond to voice commands, and gauge distances and directions. The LS3 can also distinguish different forms of vegetation when walking through fields and around bushes and avoid logs and rocks with intelligent foot placement on rough terrain (video). The robot's squad leader can issue 10 basic commands to tell the robot to do such things as stop, sit, follow him tightly, follow him on the corridor, and go to specific coordinates. Darpa figures that it's illogical to make a soldier hand over her rucksack to a robotic beast of burden if she's then got to be preoccupied with 'joysticks and computer screens' to guide it forward. 'That adds to the cognitive burden of the soldier,' Hitt explains. 'We need to make sure that the robot also is smart, like a trained animal.'"

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The first war-bot... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356519)

How long till they give it a gun? How long till they figure out the Mind-Machine-interface and we get actual Combat operations without humans?

Re:The first war-bot... (3, Insightful)

DeTech (2589785) | about 2 years ago | (#42356527)

Have you seen this platform? Most Harley's are quieter, most rock concerts are too. You could avoid this thing like a ghost avoids Mrs. Pacman after she swallows a power pellet.

Re:The first war-bot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356535)

How long till they give it a gun? How long till they figure out the Mind-Machine-interface and we get actual Combat operations without humans?

How long before they make it look like an AT-AT

wheels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356947)

I really wish they'd put a T-1000 skull-head on it

Seriously though, I think they should put some wheels on it, because those crappy legs aren't going to work in every situation. Wheels are efficient in many places too, so the thing should have both.

Re:The first war-bot... (1)

Eightbitgnosis (1571875) | about 2 years ago | (#42357165)

According to the Datalinks; Not until we research "Doctrine: Air Power" and "Neural Grafting"

Re:The first war-bot... (3, Informative)

craigminah (1885846) | about 2 years ago | (#42358563)

Boston Dynamics made Big Dog a few years ago...probably the same thing with a different name (e.g. Boston Dynamics worked on it for DARPA) but it's pretty cool. I especially like the video where it's slipping on ice but never falls. http://www.bostondynamics.com/robot_bigdog.html [bostondynamics.com]

A Jingoistic Sentiment (3, Funny)

resistant (221968) | about 2 years ago | (#42356523)

Many of the the superstitious, ill-educated tribesmen that U.S. ground troops regularly encounter already think the Americans are witches. A headless donkey scampering along with supplies will really mess with the heads of the rag-heads. Maybe some of them will flee in terror instead of shooting at our soldiers. Really, what's not to like? You'll excuse me for a moment whilst I cackle in wicked laughter and stroke my black cat with the unnaturally intelligent glow in its eyes. ^_^

Re:A Jingoistic Sentiment (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 years ago | (#42357159)

Do you recall what primitive people do to witches?

--

Aside:

"Stupidity common more hydrogen than. It you combat. Not try! Hard think, or not think!" - Sensei Yoda

That's not even close to Yoda-speak. "More common than hydrogen, stupidity is. Combat it, you must. Think, or think not, there is no 'try'."

Re:A Jingoistic Sentiment (0)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#42357309)

Do you recall what primitive people do to witches?

--

Aside:

But most of these are Muslim savages so it won't make any difference. They already believe it is their divine duty to kill non-Muslims.

Re:A Jingoistic Sentiment (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42358379)

That is an overly broad statement. You could say the same about Christians or pretty much any religious people.

Re:A Jingoistic Sentiment (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#42357359)

Do you recall what primitive people do to witches?

Proper primitive folks sponsor a virgin tossing party at the local volcano to appease the Evil Spirits.

We, being civilized folks, won't let them sacrifice their virgins, but we will be more than happy to take the virgins off the hands of the primitive folks.

Re:A Jingoistic Sentiment (1)

gadget junkie (618542) | about 2 years ago | (#42357991)

Do you recall what primitive people do to witches?

--

Aside:

"Stupidity common more hydrogen than. It you combat. Not try! Hard think, or not think!" - Sensei Yoda

That's not even close to Yoda-speak. "More common than hydrogen, stupidity is. Combat it, you must. Think, or think not, there is no 'try'."

Yes. They ask their consultant, Sir Bedivere [youtube.com] , questions about their density.

Re:A Jingoistic Sentiment (5, Funny)

Simon Brooke (45012) | about 2 years ago | (#42357607)

Many of the the superstitious, ill-educated tribesmen that U.S. ground troops regularly encounter already think the Americans are witches.

Given that the US is about the most superstitious [newyorker.com] , ill-educated [ibtimes.com] nation on the face of the Earth, that's a bit ripe. But then, of course, you famously don't do irony.

What advantage does it have over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356529)

an actual mule?

Re:What advantage does it have over (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#42356565)

an actual mule?

Well, at least one...you don't need to pack a methane fuel cell to be able to use the mule for recharging your radio batteries.

Re:What advantage does it have over (3, Insightful)

Celeritas 5k (1587217) | about 2 years ago | (#42357681)

It has several advantages-- gasoline is more energy dense than the food you'd have to carry for a mule, it doesn't get tired, no animal rights issues that would surely result from bringing a mule into a combat zone, and I'm not sure how much your average mule can carry but I don't think it's 400 lbs. The biggest thing is that it's a basis to be improved upon. The next model will be lighter, more reliable, quieter, have more capacity, etc. Give it a few years and I wouldn't be surprised to see civilian applications as well.

Re:What advantage does it have over (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357959)

I'm not sure how much your average mule can carry but I don't think it's 400 lbs.

It's about half of that -- equines can carry roughly 20% of their own weight, and typical mules are 800-1000 lbs.

Re:What advantage does it have over (1)

rvw (755107) | about 2 years ago | (#42357803)

an actual mule?

Not anything. This one takes gas, the other produces it. No joystick, while the other comes with one for free. You can talk to both, but who says that either will do what you want?

Re:What advantage does it have over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42358169)

It won't get stolen by the locals to use as a sex slave?

Beast of burden (3, Interesting)

micromoog (206608) | about 2 years ago | (#42356537)

Sounds like a very expensive donkey/mule replacement. Why not just use real animals?

Re:Beast of burden (3, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#42356561)

Two syllables: bul-lets.

Re:Beast of burden (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42357347)

Like this thing is going to be bullet resistant? You could armor-up a mule pretty easily.

Re:Beast of burden (2)

qubezz (520511) | about 2 years ago | (#42357667)

One word: Smithore

Re:Beast of burden (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356589)

Blue donkey needs food, badly.

Re:Beast of burden (3, Insightful)

Saija (1114681) | about 2 years ago | (#42356635)

Also the live thing could be used as a meat source ...
Hmmmmm donkey ribs....

Re:Beast of burden (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356751)

Robot one can be a Facebook source. WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE?!?111

Re:Beast of burden (1)

technosaurus (1704630) | about 2 years ago | (#42356767)

and it can't run on biomass either

Re:Beast of burden (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 2 years ago | (#42356911)

Because the mujahideen already knows that trick.

That's how we supplied them [wikipedia.org] in the 1980's. They'll never expect this.

Re:Beast of burden (1)

ultranova (717540) | about 2 years ago | (#42357869)

Sounds like a very expensive donkey/mule replacement. Why not just use real animals?

You can't just turn real animals off when you don't need them.

Re:Beast of burden (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42358097)

Sure you can. You just can't turn them on afterwards.

Re:Beast of burden (1)

daem0n1x (748565) | about 2 years ago | (#42358049)

But then all the generals and politicians couldn't masturbate to yet another extremely expensive war toy! Let the guys enjoy themselves. What will you come up with next, live in peace? Crazy shit.

Random questions (3, Informative)

Ginger_Chris (1068390) | about 2 years ago | (#42356541)

How much can a donkey carry?
How far can a donkey travel for before "recharging"?
How quiet is a donkey? Would the donkey sounds draw as much unwanted attention?
How much money would it cost to pick up a donkey in a local market and then feed it?

Re:Random questions (3, Funny)

DeTech (2589785) | about 2 years ago | (#42356551)

Quick! to the patent office, WAR DONKEY.

One you forgot (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 2 years ago | (#42356555)

How many bullets can a donkey take (or even near misses) before all your equipment is leaving you at a rapid pace?

Robots don't startle (or die) easy.

An animal has common sense, which makes it a poor companion for military use without a ton of training and even then it's pretty vulnerable.

Re:One you forgot (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 years ago | (#42357173)

Pack animals have been used by the military for millennia. Including the US military. The first cannon were drawn by horses. If they can be trained to handle cannon fire, they can be trained to ignore AK.

Re:One you forgot (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#42357289)

Can they be trained to ignore being shot?

Re:One you forgot (3, Insightful)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | about 2 years ago | (#42357593)

Does the LS3 work after being shot up? Silly comparison.

The kinds of animals that locals use can be used locally, by definition. It would make the US troops seem more human, and caring for actual animals may reduce the dehumanisation/PTSD of those troops after a decade+ at war.

And troops can periodically donate animals to villages. Good for hearts'n'minds. (Particularly if the US breeding program selects only the most combat-trainable animals, leaving you with some excess each year, but also as the animal age too much for heavily loaded mountain patrols but are still okay for farm-work on flatter ground.)

But, the key is that if there was a need for LS3, then the US would already be using pack animals. They aren't, so there probably isn't.

Re:One you forgot (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 2 years ago | (#42358183)

a robot will take more than one bullet though. Unless it is a really lucky shot.

animals will only take one bullet.

Also the trick is we are using pack animals we call them humvee's. Of course that is assuming there is a road to drive it on. if there are no roads, vehicles don't do so well.

Guess what the conditions of where we have been fighting are like?

The first cannon? (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 2 years ago | (#42358435)

Artillery was pulled by horses and loaded on mules until well into the 20th Century. WW1 was a terrible bloodbath of innocent animals as well as people. In WW2, Germany reserved oil for critical military applications (like the ineffective V-weapons) and a lot of horses were still used. We have actually become slightly more civilised.

Re:One you forgot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42358127)

Donkeys with blinkers and ear-mufflers don't startle easy. Donkeys don't die easy, not as easily as a complex machine does. The machine does have the advantage of being repairable. However the donkey has the advantage of being replaceable, and comes with its own equipment for that.

Re:Random questions (2)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about 2 years ago | (#42356847)

can you mass produce donkeys? airdrop them without giving a shit? strap bomps to them and send them at enemies as crazy self destruct drones?

Re:Random questions (5, Funny)

Ginger_Chris (1068390) | about 2 years ago | (#42356885)

1. Yes, you start with at least two donkeys of opposite sex...
2. Depends on how much you like donkeys.
3. Yes, but it would be a tad mean.

Re:Random questions (1)

amirishere (2651929) | about 2 years ago | (#42357083)

3. Keep the donkey hungry. Tie a carrot at the end of a remote controlled fishing rod. Strap the fishing rod to the back of the donkey. Voila, remote controlled donkey.

System and scale is very important (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357051)

What do I mean by that?

- All training sessions for various types of missions would have to take into account all the different ways a mule can act and be ill. What if the mule runs off? What if the mule starts screaming like hell? What if the mule refuses to budge? What if the mule gets a bad leg scrape on day 2 of a 4 day trip? What if you have several mules and they do different things? Mules add far more complexity than robots.

- The same in a camp. You absolutely would need to have all the mules in a big storage area. Let's then say someone lobs a grenade in. How do you check all the mules? How do you clear them for use? With robots, you have a set 50-step process to check for damage, and if it checks out, then it's always clear. With mules you'd have to give each one individual care. Surgery? Or just put down every one with a spot of blood from a potential fracture wound?

- Robots scale at will. If you're going to move 10000 men through a very rocky area, you can simply airlift as many robots as you want at will. Having as many mules as you want, when you want it, is a lot harder.

Basically the army is all about systems of doing things. Drills etc. are all standardised. Robots fit perfectly in a context like that, but mules quite badly.

Note that military and law enforcement that use animals always have a dedicated handler as a separate job. That lets this person deal with all the complexities of the animal.

Re:Random questions (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42357391)

How much can a donkey carry?

Up to 250 pounds [shadowridgedonkeys.com] .

How far can a donkey travel for before "recharging"?

Pretty much all day. They should be given access to water every couple of hours.

How quiet is a donkey? Would the donkey sounds draw as much unwanted attention?

Not nearly as loud as the stupid Big Dog (the robot on which this thing was based).

How much money would it cost to pick up a donkey in a local market and then feed it?

Even in the US, donkeys cost anywhere between nothing and $1000. That's one hell of a lot cheaper than a complicated, high tech gizmo supplied by a single source vendor on contract to the military. Further, donkeys can make more donkeys. That's a trick that robotic gizmos have yet to figure out.

Re:Random questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42358161)

That's a trick that robotic gizmos have yet to figure out

God help us when they do...

You're wasting your breath (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#42358285)

On here - if its not a tech solution its not a solution. The fact that the afghans are still using donkeys very effectively and cheaply should tell the US military something , but then they wouldn't be able to waste a few billion quid on a something that is to a donkey what a water pistol is to an AK47.

Or maybe its all down to pressure by PETA.

Read Kipling (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 2 years ago | (#42358413)

Parade song of the camp animals [cmu.edu] .

Like a lot of Kipling's verse, it starts off on a positive note and then the anti-war bit comes in at the end. But see the section for the "screw-gun mules".

Forgive me for injecting some reason... (1, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#42356545)

... but the only thing American troops should be carrying in Afghanistan now, if anything at all, is humanitarian aid. Or vacation equipment, if they came back for a personal tour of non-duty.

Re:Forgive me for injecting some reason... (0)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#42356627)

... but the only thing American troops should be carrying in Afghanistan now, if anything at all, is humanitarian aid. Or vacation equipment, if they came back for a personal tour of non-duty.

"Reason" used in the same phrase with "the troops"? That's akin to "Army intelligence".

TFS narrowly avoids another oxymoron... by using the "burden" term to reconcile between "cognition" and "soldier".

Re:Forgive me for injecting some reason... (2)

macraig (621737) | about 2 years ago | (#42356747)

Cognition certainly is an inconvenient burden.

Re:Forgive me for injecting some reason... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#42356891)

Cognition certainly is an inconvenient burden.

Granted, for a soldier, cognition is inconvenient: after all, for a job profile in which sensing and reacting are paramount, cognition becomes quite frequently a hindrance (what else do you think the army training and army regulations are about? A soldier may be wrong about anything, but s/he must be sure about everything. In other words, for a soldier, impaired/insufficient cognition must never be a reason for inaction, quite the contrary)

But... speaking about oxymorons and truisms: do you know burdens which are convenient?

Army Intelligence (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | about 2 years ago | (#42358445)

It's usually political unintelligence that is at the root of the problem. The Army has to do the stupid things that keep politicians believing they are in control. It was the military that didn't want to invade Iraq, but chimp and dick overrode them.

Re:Forgive me for injecting some reason... (1)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 2 years ago | (#42356879)

Or they should be carrying supplies, weapons, and other matériel, but only as far as it takes to find some packing crates and enough C-130s to get the hell out of that place. Unfortunately, until they do this they'll have to carry bullets, not bread, because we've placed them in circumstances where they cannot worry about saving other lives as their own are at such great risk. Hell, half the bullets will have to be insurance against blue-on-green [cnn.com] .

goatfart (-1, Troll)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#42356547)

America is goatfart. Flatulent, pestulous goatfart. America is a goat breaking wind. A pustulent, stankiferous inflamed goat anus farting loudly and gaseously in all directions. That is America. Long live CHINA, the greatest country!

Re:goatfart (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356569)

so in this metaphor china is actual goat shit, right?

Your comment is invalid (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#42356621)

It is a comment on the nature of the invalidity and impotence of America, the nation of goat fartgas and goat fartgas vapors. Truly you are the powerful forearms of a catfish that eats goat fart-water.

Re:Your comment is invalid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356645)

A Four armed katfish??!!? Yeeeah buddy. sign me up. Is that 'nother one a dem de'r darpa darpa projects?

Coulda swore... (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 2 years ago | (#42356553)

... I'd read something in Pop Sci/Mech a few years back about DARPA trying to develope this same concept. Damned if I can remember when, but it ain't a new concept for DARPA...

Re:Coulda swore... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356583)

It's a BD project named BigDog. It's been an on going dev for a long time.

Re:Coulda swore... (1)

CoderJoe (97563) | about 2 years ago | (#42356781)

Boston Dynamics has been working on varieties of this concept since the late 1990s or early 2000s. In 2005 they came out with a lighter version called BigDog. (The LS3 is apparently the next phase of the BigDog project). Here is a video from 2006: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpBG-nSRcrQ [youtube.com]

Impractical (1, Insightful)

Douglas001 (2782061) | about 2 years ago | (#42356559)

This thing seems extremely complex, loud and expensive for something that could be done by a horse or a donkey.

Re:Impractical (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356613)

I agree this sounds like a great idea.

Re:Impractical (4, Insightful)

Ryanrule (1657199) | about 2 years ago | (#42356857)

These new-fangled cars will never catch on. I could just ride my horse where I need to go.

Good luck driving a car through a swamp (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#42358253)

Or a forest with no roads or a rocky slope or 101 other types of terrain where wheels are useless.

The point is that for some things animals are still better than mechanised vehicles, even ones with tracks or artificial legs.

Re:Impractical (3, Informative)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 years ago | (#42356905)

Donkeys have problems. They need constant food and water (who's going to carry that?) Donkeys need veterinary care. Donkeys freak out if anyone fires a weapon nearby (guns are really loud, in case you didn't know...and you probably don't). Donkeys are intentionally targeted by the enemy and must be protected. This robot has all the advantages of the Terminator. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until the batteries run out.

Re:Impractical (2)

rvw (755107) | about 2 years ago | (#42357847)

This robot has all the advantages of the Terminator. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until the batteries run out.

It can be hacked. It will be hacked. We all know that. It's going to happen with the drones first. Whether it's the Iranians, some Russians in Iraq or Chinese in North Korea, it's just a matter of time.

All in the packing (2)

Skywolfblue (1944674) | about 2 years ago | (#42356985)

It's the size of a horse, not as agile as a horse, not as intelligent as a horse, and about a million times more noisy then a horse.

Donkey's can be frightened pretty easy yes, Horses if they're not trained, but War-Horses can handle extreme battle conditions pretty well.

Food vs. Batteries is a pretty even trade off. The robot is screwed if an EMP goes off, Horses are going to starve if there isn't any grass. A horse can beat 20miles in a day. /cue "interesting factoid thinking about that made me look up: (The world record is some 160km in about 6 and a half hours)"

The only really good reason I can think of is packing. You could probably stick this on the back of a Humvee, which isn't really possible with a horse.

Re:All in the packing (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357177)

Horses are worse at rough terrain and their hooves are more sensitive. Donkeys can work without horseshoes.

Re:Impractical (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 2 years ago | (#42357021)

This thing seems extremely complex, loud and expensive for something that could be done by a horse or a donkey.

Special Forces units have received training in handling horses and donkeys, because they turned out to be utterly necessary in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Army or marine units do not have the same level of autonomy as the Special Forces, which means the military would rather give them a technical solution than a living and breathing one.

More importantly, it's hard to round up enough local donkeys/horses for a large number of soldiers and you certainly can't airdrop them from a plane.

/ASFAIK, The US Military no longer has any stables [horsechannel.com] for training soldiers in handling horses or donkeys

Re:Impractical (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#42357439)

Special Forces units have received training in handling horses and donkeys, because they turned out to be utterly necessary in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But Army or marine units do not have the same level of autonomy as the Special Forces, which means the military would rather give them a technical solution than a living and breathing one.

Or, you can just use your special forces folks to train the grunts on horse and donkey handling. Somebody is going to have to be trained to use (and fix) robo mule.

More importantly, it's hard to round up enough local donkeys/horses for a large number of soldiers and you certainly can't airdrop them from a plane.

You BREED animals - that's how you make more of them. Happens pretty naturally. And you can do it in remarkably low tech circumstances. Instead of a complex of expensive buildings full of highly paid people, you can use a farm.

And animals of all sorts have been air dropped.

ASFAIK, The US Military no longer has any stables [horsechannel.com] for training soldiers in handling horses or donkeys

We still have farms, fields and oats. That, along with some vets and a couple of privates, is all that you really need.

Horses for courses.

Well done DARPA! (4, Funny)

CuteSteveJobs (1343851) | about 2 years ago | (#42356617)

This is perfect for me. I love sports, so long as I'm the one watching them and not playing them. I hate exercise. I love TV, eating and shopping, but carrying my purchases around the shopping center is hard work. Oh yeah I can use a push trolley, but they don't always go all the way out to the car park. And even if they do, how am I supposed to lift them into the trunk and get them out again? Do I look like Superman? So it's great to see DARPA producing technology with civilian applications, and just in time for Xmas! But I want it smaller, with speed stripes and a spoiler, so back to the drawing board I am afraid. But perhaps these civilian versions can pave the way for a later military version? America will be grateful. signed, Grateful taxpayer.

warfighters? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 years ago | (#42356633)

Sounds like a pulp-novel word for people who fight in wars. Specializations include gunshooter and woundfixer.

Re:warfighters? (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#42356939)

Apparently soldiers in the marine corps are easily offended [upenn.edu]

R2D2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356669)

So is this going to evolve to R2D2 in future. Robot sidekick?

Re:R2D2 (1)

DeTech (2589785) | about 2 years ago | (#42356683)

Mor like an R2D2 / donkey from Shrek hybrid.

Apropos beast of burden (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 2 years ago | (#42356685)

TFS

a soldier hand over her rucksack to a robotic beast of burden

adds to the cognitive burden of the soldier

Free association of ideas: how long 'til the soldier's burden of cognition is entirely handed over to the robotic beast?

So the Big Dog is deployed... (5, Informative)

dbc (135354) | about 2 years ago | (#42356687)

Boston Dynamics has been working on this (and posting YouTube videos) for years. That this exists isn't news. That it is finally deployed, OK, a little newsy, but nobody that follows robotics is unaware of Big Dog.

BTW -- here is a hilarious spoof video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXI4WWhPn-U [youtube.com]
but search for 'big dog' and watch some of the real ones first. Then the spoof - it's a crack up.

Re:So the Big Dog is deployed... (1)

c4tp (526292) | about 2 years ago | (#42356775)

Hadn't seen that spoof. That was the funniest thing I've seen in quite a while, thanks for that. The real Big Dog always creeps me the fuck out.

M.U.L.E. (4, Funny)

Jookey (604878) | about 2 years ago | (#42356709)

The competing agency FARPA is developing competitor to the LS3 technology. The name for this project is the Military Utility Logistics Engine. The stats are about the same except:
MULE has a payload of only 200lbs
MULE is quieter
MULE is capable of in situ resource utilization simplifying logistics
MULE is capable of doubling as a food source.
MULE's per unit cost is .01% of LS3 technology.

FARPA is also working on a more advanced project known as DONKEY, that will have self replicating abilities. Unfortunately this project is still in the early development stages.

When asked about the cost discrepancy between the $5,000,000,000 LS3 project vs the much more cost effective $500 MULE project, Congressmen Porkbarrel, R, MA replied: "I'm sorry I cant hear you over the sound of all this bribe money"

Here is a link to an early prototype of LS3:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en-GB&gl=NZ&v=VXJZVZFRFJc [youtube.com]

Re:M.U.L.E. (0)

mbstone (457308) | about 2 years ago | (#42357727)

Actually the classified name is PUPPY (Portable Utility Pack, Personnel, Y-Model). Essentially a dog wearing a Heinlein suit, PUPPY will be able to fetch grenades and chase tanks while simultaneously sniffing out the enemy's rear flank.

Re:M.U.L.E. (1)

turing_m (1030530) | about 2 years ago | (#42358557)

You don't want the DONKEY. You want an advanced recon model, the one that pairs Data Acquisition Technology with the Autonomous Sumpter System. Included of course are HUD sunglasses.

Good old fashoned rebranding! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356719)

I like how it's no longer "solders", it's "warfighters"! So much more exciting and adventureous! And if you think this new naming is accidental watch the next UFC ppv, enjoy the us army paid full length commercials and Mike Goldberg say the word "Warfighters" a few thousand times like a telemarketer after learning your name.

In the future (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356761)

Ok, project mule completed. Now build us the T-800, that's what we really want in the field!

Advantage in autonomy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356777)

If it is following soldiers around, whats the advantage in it not being driven by a human?

Re:Advantage in autonomy? (1)

DeTech (2589785) | about 2 years ago | (#42356819)

Have you ever tried to shoot someone while driving a donkey? It's really hard. Like Contra hard.

Re:Advantage in autonomy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42356825)

If it is following soldiers around, whats the advantage in it not being driven by a human?

A driver means one less forward pointing rifle.

Politically Correct is Incorrect in Summary (4, Interesting)

estitabarnak (654060) | about 2 years ago | (#42356821)

"Darpa figures that it's illogical to make a soldier hand over her rucksack to a robotic beast of burden if she's then got to be preoccupied with 'joysticks and computer screens' to guide it forward." (Emphasis mine.)

I know that people love sounding politically correct by arbitrarily changing "he" to "she," but in this particular case, it's not only silly but probably wrong. We've been hearing a fair amount lately about how female soldiers aren't allowed in designated combat zones, such as in this piece http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=166303415 [npr.org] In other words, "she" is statistically unlikely compared to "he," here.

It's a funny time when we start to trade in /actual/ correctness for political correctness.

Re:Politically Correct is Incorrect in Summary (2)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about 2 years ago | (#42357241)

When she enters her battle zone, shopping malls sales, she always needs a 'mule' to carry her bags and also as cash supply unit. Therefore "hand over her rucksack to a robotic beast of burden"

Re:Politically Correct is Incorrect in Summary (2)

slimdave (710334) | about 2 years ago | (#42357663)

Also she'd have to hand the controls over to a male colleague if this thing needs to be backed into a tight parking spot.

Re:Politically Correct is Incorrect in Summary (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357665)

It's not a case of political correctness here. Part of the (largely unspoken) goal of this military project is to reduce the average mass of the soldier's gear and kit. Aside from all the obvious advantageous, it also serves to eliminate part of the physical disadvantages which most female troops have. This could eventually lead to more women in uniform and in combat positions.
In other words, the reason for the use of 'she' is because they are thinking of women in particular when looking into battlefield applications.

Re:Politically Correct is Incorrect in Summary (1)

HyperQuantum (1032422) | about 2 years ago | (#42358505)

It's a funny time when we start to trade in /actual/ correctness for political correctness.

It's not funny, it's sad. Very sad only.

Just ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357085)

It's funny how when contractors are involved a $500 live mule mutates into a multimillion dollar robotic mule that takes a team to maintain. Live mules self replicate and can live off cheap forage instead of expensive fuel and heal themselves and don't need mechanics. The robots look cool and do a good job but a live mule can still out perform one in every category from endurance to load they can carry and they don't need a factory to make one just two horny mules.

Most Excellent for Psych Ops! (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 2 years ago | (#42357293)

Give that puppy three Kerberos heads and train him in Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels. He should snarl, spit fire and rabidly foam at the mouth at soldiers' commands. Chainsaw saber-tooth fangs and Ginsu claws are a must.

When the local yokels see the soldiers on patrol with the Hound of the Devil, it will scare the Bejesus out of them, and they will skedaddle, like their asses were on fire.

David Blaine could ride the donkey, and perform bizarre street magic tricks that weird out the locals. The insurgents will be like totally convinced that their enemies have evil supernatural powers. Suicide bomber volunteer rates will plummet:

"I ain't dying near those goddamned evil bastards! They'll be takin' my soul right back with them straight to Hell!"

Not inventive enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357653)

Darpa figures that it's illogical to make a soldier hand over her rucksack to a robotic beast of burden if she's then got to be preoccupied with 'joysticks and computer screens' to guide it forward.

To me it is more logical to make a biped humanoid walker to carry burden, follow, imitate, and draw enemy fire from real human onto itself. Hopefully, this robo-shadow should also double as exoskeleton to the soldier, but soldier should have control it through another, "movement pickup" suit to enable simple remote control of robot when it is on its own. When following soldier over complicated terrain, simple time delayed imitation algorithm could allow robot to keep in step.

Take a load of Benny, and you put the load right o (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42357721)

n me. Duh DUh Duh Duh Duh....

Artist's Impression (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 2 years ago | (#42357967)

When asked to come up with a "headless companion to carry equipment and aid our marines when out on duty" the first suggestion was this [makefive.com]

All you nay-sayers... (3, Insightful)

udoschuermann (158146) | about 2 years ago | (#42358223)

What all you nay-sayers forget is that this is only the very beginning of (debatable) usefulness. What comes out of this research over the next 10, 30 or 50 years, however, may prove surprising, and not just for how far this "mule" has come, but what other technologies it throws off along the way.

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