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Robotic 'Pack Mule' with Impressive Reflexes

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the robo-horse dept.

268

moon_monkey writes "New Scientist has a story about a nimble, four-legged robot that can recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick." From the article: "The project is sponsored by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), who want the robotic pack mule to assist soldiers in terrain too tough for vehicles. Ground-based soldiers often need to carry 40 kilograms of equipment. Raibert says the latest version of BigDog can handle slopes of 35 - a steeper gradient than one in two. The hydraulics are driven by a two-stroke single-cylinder petrol engine, and it can carry over 40 kg, about 30% of its bodyweight. The robot can follow a simple path on its own, or can be remotely controlled."

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268 comments

Why not just use ... a live mule? (4, Insightful)

jimmyhat3939 (931746) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848299)

Why is this better than just a mule? Let's see... Mules eat plants and grasses found naturally in the area. The electronic mule requires electricity. Great if you're in a city in the USA. Bad if you're in terrain thats "too tough for vehicles".

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (5, Funny)

jasonditz (597385) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848308)

Well for one... nobody can get a multimillion dollar contract to develop a live mule.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

malraid (592373) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848325)

Don't give them idea, I'm sure they'll manage that with enough (more) money

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (3, Funny)

Donut2099 (153459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848665)

I hear that if you spray chemicals on the mule, it becomes a synthetic mule and you can get a tax break.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (3, Funny)

blair1q (305137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848672)

That's no Mule.

That's an AT-AT.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (4, Interesting)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848341)

Let's see... mules are animals. How could a machine possibly be better than an animal?

A machine won't get spooked by gunfire
a machine won't start making mating calls that alert the enemy to your position
a machine won't take massive shits that a tracking dog could smell
a machine doesn't die if it gets thirsty - you can go get more fuel and come back to it a week later or a month later.

I can see a whole lot of applications where a live animal wouldn't be as useful. Perhaps we should get rid of all the motorcycle police and make them use horses, too?

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848420)

A two-stoke 1 cylinder engine is extremely noisy and will alert every enemy in a 3 mile radius - a lawnmower is not stealthy.
mules don't die when sand gets into their engines,
mules dont have spark plugs that need replacement,
mule shit is good fertilizer

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (2, Insightful)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848435)

a - an engine can be turned off at will, and a mule cannot.

b - this is a proof of concept demonstrating the technology. the key here is that it can navigate rough terrain and has good balance. The source of rotational energy is hardly important at this point.

Sand isn't exactly friendly to the lungs of an animal, either, and at least when the robot dies you have a chance of repairing it. Good luck repairing your dead mule.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (2, Funny)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848459)

But when your mule dies in the bitter cold of the ice planet Hoth, you can slice it open with your lightsaber and shove your semi-conscious friend inside to keep warm while you build a proper shelter.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

jericho4.0 (565125) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848535)

That's why they don't use lawnmower engines.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848453)


      a) Not a good mule.
      b) Not a good mule. (you stupid).
      c) You are going to conquest sierra maestra?
      d) Heh? A week r later the war is over. See Iraq!!

                                     

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (3, Insightful)

Fluffy the attack ki (890645) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848561)

Perhaps we should get rid of all the horse police instead, make them use motorcycles... Or we could continue to use the best transportation for the task at hand.

First: Yes, an untrained mule may be spooked be gunfire. On the other hand people have been training horses to go into battle for thousands years. Worst case scenario your packmule runs from behind cover and gets shot (assuming the enemy would bother shooting at fleeing livestock in the middle of a fight).

Second: Mating calls from a mule? Mules are sterile, do they even make mating calls? Better question: Do they make mating calls LOUDER THAN A 2-STROKE ENGINE?!?

Third: Poop stinks, gotta give you that. So does gasoline though. Don't know enough about tracking dogs, their abilities, or their use in militaries around the world to guess how much of an issue this is.

Fourth: If the gas tank runs dry the machine DOES TOO die. The fact that you can send out a retrieval team later to recover it is of little help to the people in the group it was attached to. This thing is designed to operate in areas where conventional ground vehicles can't go, which means no gas trucks go there either. Also, if your robot mule dies for some reason you can't cook and eat it.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848345)

I doubt a real mule is gonna run in into the middle of a battlefield with supplies and junk

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848347)

This is the United States Government were talking about, why spend a few hundred on a mule when you can build one for a few hundred million?

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

PC-PHIX (888080) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848365)

Because they specifically wanted something that they could give "a hefty kick".

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848446)

if a society has the means to free animals from cruel and extreme heavy labour why not doing it? let's see...why don't we use cattle anymore to prepare land for cultivation? was it pointless to develop tractors?

I guess you're one of those people who enjoy seeing animals in circuses and still believe courier doves have no substitute.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848471)

Who cares? This puts my one step closer to getting a real life Mechanostrider and further breaking down the barrier between the real world and WoW.

Why did they get rid of mules in the first place? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848608)

Mules, horses, camels, and others that I can't think of have been used since before recorded time. And they have always been a logistical nightmare, which is why they were replaced as soon as motorized vehicles became reliable enough.

A mule eats and drinks every day. It can carry its own food and water, but that means it carries a lot less of what you needed it to carry. Or you spend a significant portion of your day foraging, which means you aren't accomplishing your mission.

Gasoline has a very good energy density. A truck can easily carry the amount of fuel it needs to go 100 miles, with most of its payload available to you. Most of the load for a mule or horse to go 100 miles would be its own food and water. Plus, a mule eats even when you aren't moving. A truck doesn't.

Ships are the most efficient form of transportation, but can only go where there's water. Canals take time to build. Railroads are almost as efficient, but laying track is expensive, and the tracks are vulnerable. Trucks are less efficient, but roads are easier to build. So it comes down to logistic efficiency and infrastructure. An engine-powered walker needs the least infrastructure, while keeping most of the efficiency.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848634)

In soviet russia grass eats mule.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (2, Insightful)

SenatorOrrinHatch (741838) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848647)

Probably because you cant mount sensors and guns on a live mule and control its every action from the safety and comfort of Ft. Livingroom, plus living things are normally scared of huge explosions and imminent death. Also, live mules look pretty bad all shot the fuck up, but nobody gives 2 shits about some twisted metal.

And... (2, Funny)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848702)

"Mules eat plants and grasses found naturally in the area."

And our solders can eat the mule. I'll bet the robotic one doesn't taste good even with barbecue sauce.

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848720)

The electronic mule requires electricity.

"The hydraulics are driven by a two-stroke single-cylinder petrol engine..."

It runs on gas - presumably the engine drives a generator for the electronics. The military is already going to be delivering gas in theater anyway, so what's the down side?

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (2, Insightful)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848725)

Mules require feeding, housing, care and medical attention even when they are not being used. The people who provide this care require feeding, housing, care, medical attention and money even when the mule is not being used. Given our petrol based way of doing everything (like growing oats) all of this actually means that a mule burns more petrol over its useful life than a machine does, because it's burning it 24/7.

Mules are also notoriously, well, mulish.

The car did not replace the horse because it was more luxurious. At the the time it was anything but. It replaced the horse because it was less expensive to purchase and own, as well as far less trouble.

The primary problem with this device is, however, what you allude to. It can run out of gas. We're not talking about Patton's tank column here. We're talking about an ordinary dogface soldier, a grunt, becoming dependant on petrol to carry his pack for him

Join the Army. Learn to be a wuss.

I'm not sure this is a good tactic just at a time when wars are becoming increasingly about petrol, because it's in short supply. The Nez Perce might well have ground our modern army to a halt and made good their escape to Canada.

KFG

Re:Why not just use ... a live mule? (1)

omaigad (958828) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848773)

or why dotn just get more immigrants to america who will cary your stuff ... its easy to bread and much cheaper.Conclusion - more green cards !

Hefty Kick? (1, Insightful)

Transcendent (204992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848309)

...a nimble, four-legged robot that can recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick... The hydraulics are driven by a two-stroke single-cylinder petrol engine, and it can carry over 40 kg, about 30% of its bodyweight.

Who's the brute who kicked that robot?

Re:Hefty Kick? (3, Funny)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848413)

I'd love to be the guy whose job it is to kick the multimillion dollar piece of equipment to see if i can knock it over.

Prostitute Schedule for Mar. 3 at the MBOT in SF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848489)

Folks, check out the updated prostitute schedule [fuckedcompany.com] for March 3 at the Mitchell Brother's O'Farrell Theater (MBOT), located at 895 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, California. The MBOT is the most convenient way for you to buy a blow job, a hand job, and full service (i.e. vaginal sexual intercourse).

I kid you not.

Please establish a hypertext link to this message. Spread the word!

Re:Prostitute Schedule for Mar. 3 at the MBOT in S (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848623)

Anyone else ever thought of going to one of these with a few good friends, some paintball guns loaded with those cayenne pepper balls the anti-riot police use, you know, just to have some good clean fun? (i.e. camping hoes and johns, just like in CS) Or am I the only one?

Personally, that's what I'd call "full service". Fun for everyone involved, no doubt!

Looking Real (3, Insightful)

hhawk (26580) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848542)

The most interesting thing is the "natural" looking motion of the "legs". At first I thought it was two guys up in some custom faking it as a robot! They are so natural!

The video delivers what is promised but notice that when it does go up that steep hill there is no 40+ kg of weight on it...

It also seems a bit to loud and well, in need of some body armor.

M.U.L.E. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848319)

Robotic mules [classicgaming.com] designed to assist people? Cool, we can colonize planet Irata now!

If you were my student, I'd fail you (0, Flamebait)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848320)

Units, people, units! "A slope of 35" is almost as useless as "steeper gradient than one in two".

One in two what? Come on, it's not that hard to put some units in there and remove any ambiguity. This is a general interest board, and your terminology is far from clear, especially given that this is a US-centric site and you seem to be using a more UK-like slang.

Re:If you were my student, I'd fail you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848349)

TFA says 35 degrees. The degree sign doesn't appear to show up on Slashdot.

Dimensionless, fucktard (4, Informative)

pkhuong (686673) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848360)

see topic.

A "gradient of one in two" is a dimensionless ratio. A slope is the mathematical slope in %, which, again, is a dimensionless ratio.

Re:Dimensionless, fucktard (-1, Flamebait)

MustardMan (52102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848383)

Actually the 35 was degrees in the article, as another poster pointed out - so perhaps you should RTFA, fucktard. This is EXACTLY why the units are important, to keep from confusing people. By confusing it yourself, you've in fact proven me right.

And "one in two" is shittily worded and unclear - there are much simpler ways to put it without trying to sound technical. This is exactly what I see from my students on a daily basis - an attempt to put style over substance. Clear and concise is the rule of thumb.

Re:Dimensionless, fucktard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848555)

Son, you are so wrong it hurts.. "one in two" is a perfectly acceptable description of an incline, as is either 35 degrees, or 35%. If your "students" use this sort of description, and you consider it to be "incorrect" or a case of "style over substance", then I would suggest that you obtain some suitable reference text to reinforce your understanding of basic geometry - perhaps "Peter and Jane Climb The Hill"...

A

Re:Dimensionless, fucktard (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848668)

What kind of generic childrens books were you read? I thought that it was "Dick and Jane!"

Re:Dimensionless, fucktard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848460)

Nice one, fucktard. Perhaps you should READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE before flaming someone for a perfectly valid post.

It's sphincters like you who are making /. a truly forgettable experience...

Re:Dimensionless, fucktard (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848657)

A "slope of 35", mathematically, would fit into the formula y = 35x + C, which of course is greater than 1 in 2, but I highly doubt that this robot is climbing 88-degree hills.

Re:If you were my student, I'd fail you (1)

Frank Battaglia (787673) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848464)

I agree the lack of "degrees" on the 35 is dumb, but for "one in two", you can use any units you want. One foot in two feet. One mile in two miles. Or cm, angstroms, cubits. It's a unitless ratio. If you were in high school Algebra, you'd say the slope was 1/2.

Re:If you were my student, I'd fail you (2, Insightful)

modecx (130548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848559)

Maybe you would have preferred it if they said "The robot can climb hills with a slope of approximately Pi/5!", so everyone who didn't take trig (and some who did) can stare blankly and say "wtf?"

Did I hear a "yay" for dimensionless units? Oh, yes, I think I did.

Re:If you were my student, I'd fail you (1)

Tetravus (79831) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848637)

From the context it appears that "steeper than one in two" refers to the subject of the sentence, i.e. slopes. So, I guess that the slope they're talking about is a steeper slope than one in two or greater than 50% of slopes that exist? Wait, that doesn't really make sense... um. Yeah, units are helpful.

Anyway, I was sorry to see your reply to the Fucktard comment modded down as flamebait but I don't have any mod points just now.

Re:If you were my student, I'd fail you (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848755)

"especially given that this is a US-centric site"

On the other hand, the artical was not posted for Slashdot. Shalshdot simply picked up the story.

Your Tax Dollars at Work (5, Funny)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848330)

Nice robodonkey.

WHERE'S OSAMA?

Re:Your Tax Dollars at Work (1)

ToasterofDOOM (878240) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848395)

Godd question. It's interesting that the best special forces in the world could so nearly miss the world's most wanted man so many times. My friends and I believe he will be caught near some crucial election =D

Re:Your Tax Dollars at Work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848457)

He's probably already caught. It'll be announced near an election.

Tinfoil hat! Wheeee!

Re:Your Tax Dollars at Work (1)

bombadier_beetle (871107) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848596)

I've often thought the same thing - if Delta Force could nail Pablo Escobar, a brilliant tactician and ruthless leader with billions of dollars in liquid assets, then they could surely get Osama, right? Wrong. The problem is that Delta had the Colombian military, police, and a small army of vigilantes to work with, and the people under Escobar were only loyal to his money. In Waziristan, US Special Forces - as awesome as they may be - have absolutely nothing to work with. I'm very impressed that they've been able to get the people they have in that region, but they'll never get Osama - they're simply no path from them to him that they can use.

Needle (2, Informative)

HolyYakker (958822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848496)

Lets compare the benefits and costs of these endevours.

Keeping in mind this project was probably long under development before 9/11 even happened; I give you a choice of two tasks:

1. Find one single person in the entire world who has an extensive network of people determined to keep him from showing up on the radar.
2. Build a robot that is able to carry a large amount of cargo over rough terrain and is rather self sufficient.

Benefits from Task 1:
1. Head of an organization brought down. However, since it is a cell based organization and much information indicates his role is no longer chief commander it will do little to help stop terrorism.

2. Umm... yeah, nevermind that's it.

Benefits from Task 2:
1. Easier transport and access to rocky terrain and remote locations (such as the ones in which Osama might be hiding.
2. Possible application in further space exploration, similar to the Mars Rover.
3. Advancement in gyrostabilization, automation of basic AI tasks, and other advanced in robotics.
4. Possible construction and civil applications.

Now, I don't know about you, but I would rather have my tax dollars go to Task 2, but that is just me I suppose.

Re:Needle (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848565)

I actually recall a news article (with a picture) talking about how Special Forces in Afghanistan were using pack mules to schlep around their gear, since they couldn't get jeeps up into the mountains.

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/issues/2002 /Feb/Special_Ops_Equipment.htm [nationalde...gazine.org]

That article is from 2002 (first page of google), but I know the article I saw was from 2005.

Coward (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848568)

Getting Osama offers other benefits:

- Discourage followers by exposing his myth to reality
- Discourage new leaders by punishing him
- Discourage other threats by showing attacking the US has consequences
- Extracting info from Osama to help destroy the rest of his network

The robodonkey can wait.

Maybe it's because I live in NYC, where I'm from, and get to look at where the WTC used to be most days, that I actually care about getting the guy who did it. Maybe you think letting him go to work on a science project instead is OK because you don't live here. Or maybe you don't live here because your kind of thinking doesn't add up to the kind of success that lets you live in a competitive place like NYC.

I note that my NY tax dollars probably subsidize your state expenditures quite a bit. Probably starting from when your grandpappy killed all those indians for his free land, using plain old mules.

I'm glad you're satisfied with the status quo. I note that Osama is satisfied, too.

Re:Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848643)

You're probably right. All those engineers should clearly be sent to the Middle east to hunt down that bad bad man.

Re:Coward (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848646)

Dude, as I commented above, we're not pulling soldiers out of the war for this. DARPA money goes to universities and companies who do the research. Enlisted folks are all off in Iraq.

They were flirting with the draft to get enough troops to chase down Iraq and their efforts in Afghanistan. The cut and dried truth is that there are plenty of other things that could be cut that would do a lot less damage the our country than DARPA funding (and the hard research funding took a deep slash this past year, in case you're wondering, lots of universities are reeling from the blow).

So, essentially, by implementing the draft, we can have the war in Iraq and chase Bin Laden. Cutting DARPA funding won't help that much.

Re:Coward (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848654)

- Discourage followers by exposing his myth to reality
- Discourage new leaders by punishing him
- Discourage other threats by showing attacking the US has consequences
- Extracting info from Osama to help destroy the rest of his network
Geez... those sound a lot like the (various) reasons given for why the US invaded Iraq.

How do you feel about the diversion of resources from Afghanistan/Osama to Iraq?

Good, bad, or crucial to the global war on terror?

Re:Your Tax Dollars at Work (-1, Offtopic)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848615)

Moderation 0
    50% Insightful
    50% Flamebait

"The facts are clearly biased against George Bush" - The Daily Show (paraphrase)

Re:Your Tax Dollars at Work (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848629)

So... what you're saying is that you just want research to dry up and die out while we hunt Bin Laden?

Seriously, they're not taking troops out of the war for this. DARPA funding is going to universities and private companies to fund stuff like this.

They were flirting with the draft over the Iraq war... I guess that what you're saying is that you want to be drafted to go and find Osama?

Perhaps there are better things to cut than research.

Re:Your Tax Dollars at Work (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848766)

He could be....in Iran. *gasp*

But after that false intel on the WMDs in Iraq, I'm willing to bet Osama is "hands off" if he is indeed located there. Remember, he's highly mobile. Even if he was in Iran, by the time everyone in Washington is done bickering, he would have moved on to another country.

Put it to you this way. We are NEVER going to get him. Never never never never...ever! No going to happen.

Video of the robot (4, Informative)

HoneyBunchesOfGoats (619017) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848337)

http://www.bostondynamics.com.nyud.net:8090/dist/B igDog_Feb-26-2006.wmv [nyud.net] Put through the Coral CDN, just in case.

The robot looks fairly hilarious when it walks, since it moves a lot like two biped robots (imitating the motion of human legs) facing each other. The whining mechanical noise is also pretty funny, since it sounds like a mechanical goat. However, it does withstand the kick pretty impressively.

Re:Video of the robot (1)

MrNougat (927651) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848490)

That is definitely a weird looking walk. It's fairly easy to imagine that it's just a couple of tiny people with very skinny legs and tight pants, like some bizarro two-person horse costume.

After watching the video, though, I have some questions:

1. Can it jump? If so, how far?
2. Can it right itself if it does fall over?
3. Can it stand still without constant leg motion? (I know, some people can't do that, so it might be a lot to ask.)
4. How long before someone straps a latex phallus to it and makes pr0n out of it? Or, of this has already occurred, where's the video of that?

Re:Video of the robot (1)

blair1q (305137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848667)

1. Probably; probably not too far

2. Only if it can get one set of legs to rotate under its body while the others stick out; because it's clearly too top-heavy to do any sort of a momentum-based roll

3. Sure it could stand without constant motion. It's a quadruped. Bipeds can fall over when stopped, if they don't use active balance, but quadrupeds should not.

4. I think the twee cowboy boots on the last dude who kicks it pretty much answer this question. Although, who could relax with all that noise? I was getting nauseous from it.

Does anyone else think the video is creepy? (1)

SickFreak (578067) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848532)

Why did they have to cover the legs like that? It looks like to torso-less leotard-clad siamese-twin joined monsters
dancing to some whining noise.

Re:Video of the robot (2, Informative)

marciot (598356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848598)

Ohh, the video is cool.

Does it make sense to post a torrent on a relatively small file (27MBs)? I guess we will find out. I'm seeding the download for now. Good luck.

http://marciot.freeshell.org/BigDog_Feb-26-2006.wm v.torrent [freeshell.org]

I wonder if having tons of slashdotters download a 3KB torrent will slashdot my free web provider.... should I provide a torrent of my torrent? Or a corel cache of my torrent of the torrent?

Re:Video of the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848620)

ERROR: NULLPOINTER EXCEPTION

Re:Video of the robot (1)

marciot (598356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848678)

Nevermind. I posted the because the coral cache was giving a database error, but it seems to be working again. You can use the original coral cache link from the parent and mod my original post redundant :)

Re:Video of the robot (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848787)

Hilarious or not, that's the most impressive display of balancing in a robot I've ever seen. Sure, there are plenty of 2-legged robots like Honda's Asimo over in Japan. But you don't see guys in cowboy boots kicking Asimo in the ass.

Man, that just gave me the best idea ever. Chuck Norris vs. Asimo. This Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, at the Arco Arena; buy your tickets now!

What about range ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848353)

How far can it go before it runs out of fuel ?

How much capacity can you sacrifice on jerrycans before it's useless ?

Isn' this just an excuse to build a robo-pony for some generals daughter ?

Really - the next thing will probably be a suicide Aibo (maybe that's why they aren't selling those any more ).

its BigDog, not "pack mule" (5, Interesting)

mrpeebles (853978) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848367)

I just don't know why anyone would ever call it a "pack mule" when its real name, "BigDog", is so much cooler.

Also, did anyone watch the movie of BigDog? It looks really creepy, actually. I guess I was subconsciously expecting to see, oh I don't know, a big robotic dog, maybe Bell from "Bell and Sebastion" with metal instead of fur. Intead BigDog looks more like something you would frantically blow away in Starship Troopers before it rips your head off with its long insect-like legs. If I had one, I think I'd want to attach something to it that looks like a little like a head, at least. When they kick it, and it moves its legs to keep from falling over, I squirm. It's like it's ALMOST alive, but not quite.

Re:its BigDog, not "pack mule" (1)

TopSpin (753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848534)

I squirm

Likewise, and I don't hesitate to admit it.

This is a prototype. It will be refined with lighter, stronger material and a viable power supply. The algorithms will be improved. It will acquire vision.

Don't be surprised when you learn the eyes have cross hairs.

Re:its BigDog, not "pack mule" (4, Insightful)

klack (823307) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848550)

I also felt it was creepy. I think we just reached the Uncanny Valley [wikipedia.org] .

M.U.L.E. (3, Funny)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848384)

Don't bother having it mine for crystite in the river valley, remember to have it make enough energy to power itself and the rest of your empire, and make sure to take care when installing it so it doesn't run off....

impressive video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848385)

The video is very impressive, but I would hardly call those kicks "hefty."

M.U.L.E. (1)

Umuri (897961) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848393)

Atari has once again predicted the future... Now you will see the US DoD pulling out it's old atari training simulators to teach soldiers how to use their new M.U.L.E. and colonize the barren wasteland of the middle east. New hidden feature: Cave hunt every round for a chance at bonus cash for finding osama

KICK WAS TOTALLY FAKE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848421)

Come on, this looked like a World Wrestling Federation staged fake kickboxer. It was so fake. The guy makes a big show of lifting up his leg like he's gonna deliver this massive blow, then he gently nudges the machine with the sole of his foot. I would bet real money that this "kick" delivered less than one Newton of force to the device.

A real demonstration would have attached a spring-force-meter to the kicker's foot, thus demonstrating the real stability of the platform.

I am the Anonymous Skeptic. I destroy false advertising, one piece of propaganda at a time. Ooh-rah.

Moving (1)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848433)

Too bad that wonderful tools like this one have to be produced for the military. Wouldn't it be great if such a mule could assist use when we have to move? Moving all those boxes is just back-breaking work. Oh well, I guess I have to ask my friends again.
Nevertheless, great stuff, well done!

Re:Moving (1)

BecomingLumberg (949374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848463)

I think hiring movers would be cheaper than anyting a military contractor ever produced.

Also, if moving in the Baltimore area, there is a chance you will find the one armed moving man I had when i was there (I forget the moving companies name). Now, given it was one beefy arm (think Trogdor on this one) but I though the movers must had been playing a joke on me. So I go down to the truck to make sure everything is read, and I came back up to see him hauling my three seater couch out with his one ginormous arm. See the sig for the proper reaction to witnessing such an occurance.....

boobies! (0, Offtopic)

scum-e-bag (211846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848445)

boobies! [animatedboobs.com]

Re:boobies! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848611)

my new start-page!

inFormative shitShit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848499)

share. *BSD is anyone that thinks NetBSD Posts on lizard - In other

Intelligence? (0, Redundant)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848502)

I, for one, welcome out new robotic pack mule overlords.

Annoying sound (1)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848506)

I understand this thing is going to be travelling alongside our soldiers in dangerous situations, and they don't want it's noise to alert the enemy... but does it really have to blast that annoying Arabic music the whole time?!

Cost comparison? (2, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848530)

I'd just like to know how this gadget compares in price to a real pack mule. If our soldiers need mules, why not, oh.... USE SOME REAL MULES?

-jcr

Re:Cost comparison? (4, Insightful)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848734)

The advantages are pretty easy to see.

Pack mules need to be fed even if you are just storing them in a camp. This thing can be packed tight in a box until you need it, then you just feed it the same gas that you feed your other vehicles. You're already shipping gas, but you aren't shipping much mule food to the camp. Sure, one the move a mule can eat some grass, but that becomes harder in the middle of the desert or while being shipped across the ocean.

Also, it's much harder to resupply a group under dangerous conditions with mules being led than it is with something you can remote control a group of across that same dangerous territory. As far as weight ratios, some of them can carry gas for the others, while those others carry what you want delivered. It's the same system trucks use.

Plus, I imagine (based on previous darpa results) these will end up quite a bit faster than mules are.

Picture remote controlled, locally autonomous truck convoys dropping these things off for the "last mile" delivery to the troops in the hills and you'll see where all this is going.

Of course, eventually they'll also use them for surveilance placements and then remote controlled combat.

Re:Cost comparison? (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848792)

then you just feed it the same gas that you feed your other vehicles

Oh, so wrong, so bloody wrong. Run straight unleaded gas in your typical 2-cycle motored piece of landscape equipment (blower, chain saw, brush cutter, etc)... One of the suxors about 2-cycle motors is having to have "mix". OK, it's not as big a suxor as having to carry AvGas, but still... Can't run them on Diesel (although there have been 2-cycle diesel marine engines, you'd just have to design it to have a long enough lifetime being lubed with diesel fuel/kerosene). Can't run them on straight 87 octane unleaded. Can't run them on alcohol.

One of the reasons the military standardized on diesel engines for its combat vehicles was to simplify the logistics of fuel delivery. Lots easier to deliver only one fuel, especially if you can use JP4 in place of #3 Diesel in a pinch (like in an M1A1 tank).

Oh come on... (0, Troll)

2Bits (167227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848545)

What kind of mech-tech reporting is that? No picture, no video?

a nimble, four-legged robot that can recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick

I'm disappointed, I was looking to see how is this mule going to be kicked, as I'm re-reading The Foundations and am looking for new ways to kick the Mule...

Re:Oh come on... (1)

njerseyguy (953143) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848854)

The video is linked in the article.

petrol? (0)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848557)

DARPA runs petrol?

Neat, but needs a muffler. (3, Funny)

RossumsChild (941873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848583)

Impressive sense of balance (the second kick in the video where it uses an almost simian method to get it's feet back under it is amazing). That's quite a step forward for robotics, though it's not particularly practical as a pack-mule alternative *yet*.

However, that thing desperately needs a muffler--is anybody else having flashbacks to "Dumb and Dumber"?

"Hey, you guys want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?"

this will be of no consequence! (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848625)

Why do I say that? Because history teaches us that machines cannot neccessarily deliver victory during a war. In Iraq, IEDs are giving us havoc. The 1967 Israel war with the Arabs was won by Israel because they (the Israelis) destroyed almost all enemy tanks and APCs rendering the troops immobile! This robot would not survive an IED or landmine at all.

I am afraid it might be an example of the so called white elephant. Sadly, we in America have many of these.

Re:this will be of no consequence! (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848740)

This robot would not survive an IED or landmine at all.

It's a robotic beast of burden, not some sort of battlemech, and it's not intended to withstand IEDs or landmines. It's intended to carry stuff over rough terrain with a platoon of dismounted infantrymen, who, if they find themselves in the middle of a minefield, will have bigger problems than worrying about the robot mule.

Err... (1)

xx_toran_xx (936474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848656)

It holds (approximately) 20 pounds.

Am I the only person that this is a really overpriced piece of machinery for what it can do?

Let's see here... (4, Insightful)

Cerebus (10185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848682)

A 1,200 lb mule can carry up to 240 lbs of pack, eats grasses found nearly everywhere, will be reasonably quiet when well-treated, is smart enough not to walk off a cliff when the mule skinner isn't paying the best of attention, and will cost you under US$2000 per head. In addition, we know mules can be combat-trained, as mule trains were used to pull artillery on battlefields, and when worse comes to worst, you can eat it.

This thing can carry a bit more, eats gasoline, makes as much noise as a gas turbine, will happily stroll into harm's way, and will likely cost on the order of a luxury car per unit. While there will be no training needed, when it breaks down it's just so much spare parts.

Part of the reason for wanting something that can go anywhere is that the trucks you currently have *can't*. So how are you going to refuel the mechanical mule? Can this thing pack enough spare fuel *and* have enough capacity left to be useful?

I think I'll stick with the mule.

Re:Let's see here... (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848762)

A 1,200 lb mule can carry up to 240 lbs of pack...

That's only 20% of its body weight, so by that measure, you get more bang for the buck - well, kilogram, anyway ;) - with the robot, which can carry 30%. If the numbers in the article are close to correct, five of these things will weigh approximately the same as one mule, and be able to carry well over 400 pounds of equipment.

So how are you going to refuel the mechanical mule?

Same way you're resupplying ammo and food to the men it's with.

Re:Let's see here... (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848775)

Yes, but how much gas does the thing have to tote? Mules don't have to tote their own food usually (in Afghanistan/Iraq/Iran they probably would have to, though, and water too). How do they get so much power from a .080 model airplane engine, though?

Re:Let's see here... (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848815)

I assume it's a bit beefier than a model airplane engine. ;)

Anyway, you can get a gas powered scooter with a 50cc two stroke single cylinder engine - those are good for 60-70 miles on a gallon of gas. Figure a gallon of gas is about 6 pounds (2.7 kilos), so six kilos gets you a gallon in the tank and a gallon to spare. Who knows what kind of mileage this thing gets, but it might be okay.

Electricity (1)

comp.sci (557773) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848689)

Important questions:
1) How long does it last without repairs
2) Can it withstand harsh weather (snow, ice, rain, SAND)
3) How long do the batteries last and how will it re-power? A solar panel would be great for this thing!

Until these questions are resolved there are fairly limited military options for this freakishly human thing.

YOU FAIL IT.. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848690)

That suuports personal rivalries Inventing excuses noises out of the

gits referance... (1)

Nihilanth (470467) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848709)

tachikoma is born! yay! now all we need is strong AI and sticky projectile webs.

This is interesting but.... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848727)

I think robotics is cool and all but anyone that thinks that making robots replace people is a good thing should read two stories.

Manna by Marshall Brain
http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

and more importantly The Machine Stops,by E. M. Forester, written in 1909 and extremely prophetic
http://brighton.ncsa.uiuc.edu/~prajlich/forster.ht ml [uiuc.edu]

Interesting article... (1)

Agram (721220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848786)

While I do understand that this is a proof-of-concept model, there's still something very sardonic about the entire article, especially when it emphasizes the fact that the "mule" "can carry over 40 kg, about 30% of its bodyweight," which implies that "mule's" weight is ~130 kg. Follow that with the "[it can be used] to take the weight off a tired soldier" and you get an interesting dilemma: ok, so it can take the weight off a tired soldier, but what I really wonder is who carries this ~130kg beast during the times when its assistance is not needed and no vehicles are available nearby? If you ask me, I'd rather stick to my 40 kg backpack...

Maybe this will allow... (0)

Imp00 (889668) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848797)

Maybe this will allow the US to finally hunt down Osama and Co. in presently unreachable areas of the Afghan terrain? Certainly that's the first thing that shot in my mind reading the excerpt as a purpose for this design.

AniMules (2, Funny)

4Dmonkey (936872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848812)

They created us to carry their burden, and it was good .....

Then they kicked us, and it started...

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