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New BigDog Robot Video

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the now-to-work-on-the-muffler dept.

Robotics 193

John860 writes "The US company Boston Dynamics has released an amazing new video of its quadruped robot BigDog. The highlight of the video (at 1:24) shows how the robot starts slipping on ice, almost falls several times, but finally regains its balance and continues walking. The video also shows the robot's ability to cope with different types of terrains, climb and descend steep slopes, and jump. Two years ago, the older version of BigDog was already able to climb slopes, keep its balance after a strong kick, and walk on rough terrain like stones, mud, and snow. The new version weighs 235 lbs and can carry a payload of up to 340 lbs, a factor of 4 better than its predecessor."

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193 comments

Somewhere deep in the caves of Tora Bora (5, Funny)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792728)

Hafez, you get the shipment of Korans from Amazon yet?

Yeah, but it was delivered by this weird mechanical goat thing that buzzed like a swarm of bees in a poppy field.

Hmm. I believe my RealGoat delivery has arrived! Allahu Ackbar!

Re:Somewhere deep in the caves of Tora Bora (3, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792810)

Did you ever see a BBC documentary on putting explosives inside animals? As you can probably expect, spooks experimented on it during the cold war. Partly it was because the Russians trained dogs to sleep under warm tanks, loaded them up with exposives and sent them toward the German lines in World War II. The US/UK were quite reasonably concerned that a "explosive dog gap" might open with the Communists, so they poured money into research.

My favourite part was where some scientist enthused that "you can fit quite an arsenal inside a 500lb boar". What an awesome job. I reckon animals are quite redundantly engineered, so you could take quite a lot of guts out of them and still have them able to stagger a few miles to enemy lines. Boars are unclean animals for Muslims, so presumably be drenched with bits of exploding boar milliseconds before you die would stop you getting into paradise if you believe in that sort of thing.

That would be culturally insensitive of course, so we shouldn't do that. But you could turn a herd of goats into a living cluster bomb. Can I has DARPA funding now?

Not a whine, just an observation (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792830)

The only practical applications of this technology are Aibo-like robotic pets, alpine rescue/relief assistants (like St. Bernards of old), and military weaponry.

The two posts so far talking about any of this are modded down.

I guess we're just harshing the moderators' robotic overlord buzz.

Re:Not a whine, just an observation (-1, Offtopic)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792886)

Who cares? Karma is just a number. I'd rather have crap karma and say what I want than parrot played out memes like a well trained monkey and get modded up for it.

Re:Not a whine, just an observation (-1, Offtopic)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792908)

Yeah, I agree. Moderation is such an overrated thing.

I also think that Microsoft has done quite a bit to damage the computer industry. While it's not possible to put a direct number on the damage, it should be clear that their stranglehold on the industry has led to technological stagnation and a homogenous techno-ecosystem. This makes the entire system weaker due to the system's single point of failure.

On the other hand, Linux is probably the best answer to the ecosystem problem. By injecting fresh techno-DNA into the mix, we are able to see vast improvements in both network hardiness as well as true innovation and invention, the least of which is demonstrated by this mechanical goat. While I am not sure whether it runs Linux or not, it is pretty obvious that it *could* run Linux and that we are all better off for it.

Macs are also pretty good, and I wish they had a larger marketshare to really put the pressure on Microsoft to improve Windows or die. They make really great hardware and second-to-none software, so it will be interesting watching as their marketshare climbs.

Really, karma is totally overrated, and I don't want to have anything to do with it. If you agree, mod this post up so that it is seen by many people.

Re:Not a whine, just an observation (0, Offtopic)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792978)

I also think that Microsoft has done quite a bit to damage the computer industry.
I found this site very Informative site about it!

http://www.microsoft-watch.com/ [microsoft-watch.com]

On the other hand, Linux is probably the best answer to the ecosystem problem.
Have you read the Cathedral and the Bizarre? It's a very Insightful article about that!

http://catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/ [catb.org]

I for one welcome our new Linux overlords.

Hopefully someone will find a way to make the Robot Dog swim and put a laser on its head, like Dr Good did with whales in the movie Wayne's World. Party on Austin Powers! was very Funny and Underrated catchphrase.

Really, karma is totally overrated, and I don't want to have anything to do with it.
Yeah, things like this just show how much this country has dumbed down since Bush was [s]elected President, I'm seriously considering moving to North Korea. Did you know they have free health care there?

Re:Not a whine, just an observation (1)

mchanaud (1087413) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793176)

The only practical applications of this technology are Aibo-like robotic pets, alpine rescue/relief assistants (like St. Bernards of old), and military weaponry.
You forget the most practical application of this technology : trumpet playing robots

Re:Not a whine, just an observation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22794066)

The only practical applications of this technology are Aibo-like robotic pets, alpine rescue/relief assistants (like St. Bernards of old), and military weaponry.

Those are important applications that have high need for this sort of things. There are, however, other possibilities with somewhat lower importance: How about mechanical riding horses and camels, for recreation and new (well, ... same old) sports based on riding them, non-lethal mechanical bulls (perhaps piloted by human, for better fights) in bull-fighting spectacles, better, non intrusive methods of studying wild animals in their natural environment using quadrupedal robotic cameras for telepresence, ... only limit for finding application of anything is limit of one's imagination.

IMHO, for military, next step (no pun intended) for nice people of Boston Dynamics should be amphibious quadrupedal robots: load carrying animals usually can force narrow, deep water obstacles. Their mechanical replacements should ditto. Oh, and adding small wheels on the end of the legs would be a nice touch - when terrain allows it (e.g. when in garage, on park, or are being towed on the road), robots can slide, in fact roll, and when terrain is complicated, wheels are held by brakes to prevent rotation and are used as usual "hoofs". Perhaps some rollerskating moves would enhance their versatility and mobility in urban environment. Now, having written that, there's no real need to always mimic nature to the letter. No animal has body with wheels and yet wheels are very versatile on almost any terrain. E.g. military alpine tactical paramedic units often have one-wheeled "carts" (e.g. to carry wounded personnel) in their equipment, where wheel adds nothing to stability, it just offloads some of the weight from carriers and, having single contact point with ground, doesn't get in the way ... much. Some combination of legs and wheels or soft treads around lower parts of legs would probably yield optimum for walking, running, rolling, sliding and on-the-belly crawling, but it is direction without a precedent to measure up to (no such animal).

P.S. Safety first: This type of vehicle will probably walk in column formations along humans. Generations of infantrymen and infantrywomen and other service people using them will be grateful if there is some way for these robots to (like animals do) sense if they are about to step on a human foot (or any body part, for instance, when human in front stumbles or slips and falls) and avoid it or stop, especially after they add another boost to its carrying capacity.

Re:Not a whine, just an observation (1)

mikael (484) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794124)

The closest nature seems to have got to the wheel is the flagellum [ku.edu] (a bacterium's tail that rotates through chemical reactions)

Re:Somewhere deep in the caves of Tora Bora (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793346)

"Partly it was because the Russians trained dogs to sleep under warm tanks, loaded them up with exposives and sent them toward the German lines in World War II."

But that was never a real success: The dogs got trained by the russians, only drawback:
When it gets real they sent the the dogs out, but because the dogs was trained with russian equipment, they prefer to lay below the russian tanks and not the germans.

Re:Somewhere deep in the caves of Tora Bora (4, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793396)

But that was never a real success: The dogs got trained by the russians, only drawback:
When it gets real they sent the the dogs out, but because the dogs was trained with russian equipment, they prefer to lay below the russian tanks and not the germans.
That's propaganda from the capitalist reactionary press. The truth is that socialist hero dogs defeated the evil fascist invaders.

Re:Somewhere deep in the caves of Tora Bora (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794228)

Been done, sorta. During WW2 the Allies trained german shepards to run toward and lay under tanks while carrying a doggie backpack, then took them into battle and strapped explosives to them.

Oh yeah? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22792758)

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=mmVaLp8icoU

Uck you too, buddy!

Well... (0, Offtopic)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792764)

Time to break out all the 'robotic overlords' jokes.

More to the point (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792770)

Does this "dog" like peanut butter?

Re:More to the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793132)

Not as much as your wife does while she's licking it off of my nutsack.

Kick (1, Interesting)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792812)

I saw the video a few days ago. The most impressive part for me was when this guy kicked the machine, and it struggled to find its (not it's, you misspellers!) balance back. Look at the legs go! It looks so real it's (it is) amazing! The part where it climbed the rubble was also impressive. It looks like the thing has eyes that it uses to find out where it should put its feet.

Re:Kick (1)

pembo13 (770295) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792822)

It looks so real it's (it is) amazing!

I don't think anyone was calling FAKE and claiming that it was CGI, so yes... it is real. More seriously though, I think they are saying dog just because of the conotations it brings, its movements don't seem very dog like to me, they match that of some other four-legged mammals more closely I think.

Re:Kick (2, Interesting)

sapphire wyvern (1153271) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792858)

The rear limbs are a bit dog-like, but the forelimbs are the same only turned the other way around. That's why it doesn't seem doglike to me.

If you took two dogs and strapped them together, facing each other, with their forelimbs in the air and only their rear limbs on the ground... and made them telepathic... they might move a bit like that!

I find the part where it slips on the ice particularly impressive - although BigDog seemed to come perilously close to a broken limb in the incident! I think most humans faced with that kind of situation would end up sitting on their rears with a rueful expression.

Re:Kick (2, Interesting)

0111 1110 (518466) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793406)

if you took two dogs and strapped them together, facing each other, with their forelimbs in the air and only their rear limbs on the ground... and made them telepathic... they might move a bit like that!
The first time I saw this Boston Robotics thing (the earlier version), I had no context for the video clip, nothing to tell me it was a robot. So it reeaally creeped me out big time. And the loud engine actually made it even more scary. I thought maybe it was some sick, brutal, military experiment in commanding a real, but mutilated animal, a hybrid dog-machine, like those experiments being done with rats. Has anyone else here seen No Telling [imdb.com]? I suspect that if I hadn't seen that movie I might not have been so creeped out.

That gasoline engine really reduces its practicality though for anything other than a pack mule. They need to work on adding an RTG [wikipedia.org] to it along with some of those newly developed high efficiency solar cells. So it will be nearly silent and not need recharging for like 80 years. Also they definitely need a head with video camera eyes with green lasers and/or high intensity IR lights behind them as well, a hydraulic jaw controlling a mouth filled with hundreds of hollow, hardened, stainless steel shark teeth filled and coated with a potent neurotoxin [asanltr.com] like maybe palytoxin or tetrodotoxin. A minigun [wikipedia.org] hidden in its mouth is obviously mandatory. It should also be able to cough VX nerve gas from a small compressed cylinder in it's throat and spit concentrated nitric acid. And of course it would need microphone ears and a tail to aid in balance when running and some fur and leather/kevlar skin to help protect its electronics from the elements and the occasional bullet. If they could make it pass for a real dog they could even fill its belly with explosives to self destruct near enemy troops or if captured. And of course they should really add some wings and make it into an ornithopter as well. And how about a really cool howl like the one in American Werewolf in London or some even more creeptastic sound. Great for shock and awe. Also great for crowd control of anti-war protesters etc.

Of course a nonmilitary version with the RTG and solar cells could be sent to explore mars.

Re:Kick (1)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793148)

To me, it sometimes looked like a dog, sometimes like a horse, sometimes like a spider, and sometimes like two guys in a pantomime cow costume.

Re:Kick (2, Interesting)

kd4zqe (587495) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794366)

Some people might be calling shenanigans because there are sections of the video that are accelerated for time and look a little weird. As far as the robot's movements, I see more in common with the gait of a deer or other ungulates. There also seems to be a bit of a learning curve on new terrain that simulates a newborn fawn or horse when attempting to find footing for the first time. They've done a remarkable job simulating these natural aspects or quadrapeds.

As for the dog reference, it could be a play on the goal of being the ultimately loyal, new, man's-best-friend.

Re:Kick (4, Funny)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792866)

I highly doubt that it's very real.. You see, I would kick our dog right now like that.. there!.. his true reaction wou3eim em,,yuktie2;'36+ .0

Re:Kick (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793054)

Maybe the combat versions come with a Lunge and Bite Service Pack that corrects the "Unexpected Response to Kick" bug.

The civillian versions will be all plush and lovable (though huge) until some glitch reenables the combat subroutine. Lone cop and beautiful female computer scientist will then need to fight their way to the Mans' Best Friend central computer to press the reset button. One of the dogs will stay loyal and help them, the rest (with glowing red eyes, to tell the slower audience members that they are Evil) will terrorise the population.

Joe Dante will direct "Mans' Best Friend" (working title "Pastiche 3") of course, from a novel by Steven King. The cast will all be scientologists and there will be a few references to engrams and so on in the script, or maybe just adlibbed in. The movie will start with Eisenhower's speech about the Military Industrial complex and then cut to something ironic, like a weapons factory stripping the weapons off a giant robot dog endoskeleton, wrapping it in plush fur and loading it into a box labelled "Mans' Best Friend".

Creepy (4, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792836)

Is anyone else creeped out by how natural the movements of this robot are? Maybe it's the lack of a head and the ominous buzz-of-death, I don't know. As I recall, there's some theoretical curve for robots where the human acceptance of a robot dramatically drops at a sweet spot as reality is approached and doesn't rise until reality is achieved. This robot definitely falls in that zone for me.

Re:Creepy (4, Interesting)

lendude (620139) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792876)

I found the anthropomorphic factor of this robot thru' the roof, mostly I think because of its movement characteristics. It immediately reminded me of an old German Shepard once in our family, particularly the sequence on ice when it badly slipped: it looked exactly like our poor old shep when his back legs went on him. Man, I almost shed a tear at that point of the vid!

They may have to think about toning this aspect down for war time scenarios - I can well imagine soldiers going to 'old yella's' assistance when he comes under fire!

Re:Creepy (2, Interesting)

Gabest (852807) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792926)

Yes it's so real, but what still bothers me is the constant/fast step rate. If I were climbing a hill or walked on ice I would spend varying ammount of time to look for safe spots on the ground, and perhaps test them a bit before fully putting my weight on my feet.

Re:Creepy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22794054)

I can imagine this is fairly trivial to implement in the next phase. If my car can tell me when there is a chance that the ground is icy, I'm sure dog-bot can, and I would think after it experienced some slippage it should slow down over the next few steps and gradually build up speed again to account for the fact that it might be in rough terrain. Having said that, if it can cope with moving fast in bad terrain then why not let it? The key thing would be having some mechanism to right itself if it did tumble and ensuring that the payload was adequately protected, I guess...

Re:Creepy (5, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792942)

As I recall, there's some theoretical curve for robots where the human acceptance of a robot dramatically drops at a sweet spot as reality is approached and doesn't rise until reality is achieved.

Yes, it's called the "Uncanny Valley [wikipedia.org]".

Simply Amazing. (5, Interesting)

Sterrance (1257342) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792854)

It reacting to a kick was so lifelike I wanted to call Peta. I frankly don't see the actual use in war, besides transporting things, I can't wait till they make toy versions.

Re:Simply Amazing. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22792970)

If you "don't see any actual use in war, besides transporting things", you're really not trying.

Add a turret, a video camera, and a remote control -- presto, a soldier that can march 24/7 across the desert, across the ice, through tear gas clouds, through radioactive fallout, and arrive somewhere all fresh and ready to shoot people, or drop bombs.

They're not going to "make toy versions", at least not any time soon. Why try to make a $100-1000 toy, and compete on the free market, when you can keep everything secret and sell them to the military for orders of magnitude more?

I'm an American, and these things scare me. Robert E. Lee once said "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it". Our government is making it significantly less terrible (for its own soldiers) all the time, and they also seem to be growing rather fond of it. When you can run a robotic war (in the air and on the ground) by remote control, what's to stop you from attacking everybody you don't like?

I predict we'll have robot infantry on the ground inside of 5 years, and within 2 years of that, they'll be back here patrolling American soil. And no, it's not a partisan issue, either: even Obama, the democratic frontrunner, wants to *increase* military spending, even though America's military budget is already larger than the military budgets of every other country in the world, combined.

Re:Simply Amazing. (1)

Sterrance (1257342) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793024)

Very true, but don't forget something as big as that thing would require a lot of energy, and the dog could be destroyed with something like a bomb or a mine (which as we all know our enemies use quite often). At best Big Dog could be a scout, but a full on Metal Gear is quite unrealistic.

Re:Simply Amazing. (5, Insightful)

Rainer (42222) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793088)

...the dog could be destroyed with something like a bomb or a mine ...
Soldiers can be killed/wounded with the same weapons.
If a robot is cheaper than a dead/wounded soldier the robot might be a better option.

Also consider that robots need no training and (almost?) no supplies when they are in storage.

Re:Simply Amazing. (3, Insightful)

sloth jr (88200) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794278)

If you "don't see any actual use in war, besides transporting things", you're really not trying.

Add a turret, a video camera, and a remote control -- presto, a soldier that can march 24/7 across the desert, across the ice, through tear gas clouds, through radioactive fallout, and arrive somewhere all fresh and ready to shoot people, or drop bombs.


And this could be likely achieved with other conventional robotic conveyance mechanisms. If you just need to deliver a mobile land-mine, adaptation of simple RC cars could probably serve. As for dropping bombs and shooting people - there are plenty of airborne weapons that would be difficult to surpass in terms of "efficiency". Cheaper and simpler will win.

About the only military use I can see for this might be urban alley crawls, where terrain could be difficult, cramped, and dangerous, and possibly IED detection/detonation. I agree with parent about this being mostly a pack mule.

Re:Simply Amazing. (1)

Shajenko42 (627901) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794476)

Add a turret, a video camera, and a remote control -- presto, a soldier that can march 24/7 across the desert, across the ice, through tear gas clouds, through radioactive fallout, and arrive somewhere all fresh and ready to shoot people, or drop bombs.

...

I'm an American, and these things scare me. Robert E. Lee once said "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it". Our government is making it significantly less terrible (for its own soldiers) all the time, and they also seem to be growing rather fond of it. When you can run a robotic war (in the air and on the ground) by remote control, what's to stop you from attacking everybody you don't like?
Combining these two sentiments, they could make the robot shoot at anything with a heat signature (no need for fancy "friend or foe" AI), and they don't even need the soldier controlling it. Keep out those pesky reporters, and you've got a genocide on your hands.

Re:Simply Amazing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793008)

The use would probably be as a pack-mule for infantry, or possibly as a scout. It can carry a lot more than a soldier, and traverse tougher terrain than a wheeled vehicle.

Re:Simply Amazing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793018)

You don't see it? Imagine a couple of years from now - when these things can outrun humans. While carrying a machine gun.

Re:Simply Amazing. (5, Funny)

tjhayes (517162) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793042)

It reacting to a kick was so lifelike I wanted to call Peta

Sounds like maybe we should call PETA on you, since it sounds like you know exactly how an animal reacts when it gets violently kicked :)

Re:Simply Amazing. (4, Funny)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793076)

I frankly don't see the actual use in war, besides transporting things
Yes, enemies would make small planes fly around it with some rope and tie its legs.

Re:Simply Amazing. (1)

RuBLed (995686) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793162)

No actual use in wars? I beg to differ but a robotic lion, giraffe, leopard, shark and eagle would definitely be a formidable oponent. (even more formidable with the robotic armadillo)

Re:Simply Amazing. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793184)

I frankly don't see the actual use in war, besides transporting things

Other than an autonomic anti-tank cannon or 100KG of explosives?

No tactical need for anti-tank or self-detonating (2, Insightful)

patio11 (857072) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793246)

There is no reason to use a robot to deliver an anti-tank round when a) the enemy doesn't use tanks and b) if he did, we have 46,000 cheaper, more reliable, and less risky ways of killing the tanks. Similarly, explosive robots have all the ROI of "firing a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hitting a camel in the butt"*, which we have been trying to get away from.

* Best Dubya line ever. http://www.snopes.com/rumors/bush.asp [snopes.com]

Re:No tactical need for anti-tank or self-detonati (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793416)

If you're unable to nuke the site from the orbit (say, because your troops are there) you must get your hands dirty.

Say, the enemy has tunnels a'la Vietcong, or underground bunkers or such. You need to send a scout. Who will it be?

And it wouldn't be good if the robot gets captured, so a good self-destruction mechanism is in order.

Re:Simply Amazing. (2, Informative)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793460)

I frankly don't see the actual use in war, besides transporting things,
Um, that "besides" you're brushing off so easily is a pretty big one. Today, a common load carried by (US) infantry soldiers weighs around 45 kg. That's a LOT to be lugging around, and it's increasing due to new equipment being added (plus its batteries) and more stringent requirements on e.g. body armor.
If you can offload half that onto a mechanical dog, the effectiveness of your unit would increase dramatically.
War is mostly a logistical operation with some fighting going on at the fringes. Anything that improves the logistics gives you an advantage.

Disaster Assistance (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793746)

One application I think would be good for this type of device is during disasters. Think about it, if they are allowed to roam with supplies they could get into areas at night that would be too dangerous to send people.

I can also imagine them carrying cell phone capability besides food and medical. Let alone the fact that once if finds someone you know where they are too. Throw some thermal sensors in there and it might be able to scout the interior of partially collapsed structures to identify where people may be

Re:Simply Amazing. (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793748)

I frankly don't see the actual use in war, besides transporting things

"Things" including, but not limited to, guns, bombs, dying soldiers, mounted remote-targetable weaponry, decoys, etc.....

But I imagine the idea is simply to have a machine that can carry 300+ lbs. of payload uphill in adverse conditions instead of forcing soldiers to do it, freeing them to be ready to duck and shoot back at any surprise threat instead. I haven't yet seen a video of this thing climbing a sand dune, but I'm certain that's on their to-do list.

Re:Simply Amazing. (1)

matt328 (916281) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794096)

Yeah, I was going to say, did anyone else feel bad for it when that guy kicked it? My initial reaction was 'Well that wasn't very nice.'

Creepy (1)

jimboindeutchland (1125659) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792910)

That's really cool, but does anyone else find it kinda creepy in it's life-likeness?
I mean, when it was falling and slipping on the ice I caught myself feeling sorry for it.

With that big payload (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792916)

Let's hope they use some of it to put a decent muffler on the thing. Kinda looks like Santa's Little Helper and Snowball in the Treehouse of Horror VIII... the back halfs

tres creepy (1)

majorgoodvibes (1228026) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792928)

The movements are so life-like that when you see it at a distance through the trees you immediately try to identify it as an actual animal - then, when it becomes clear that its profile is all wrong, the chill sets in.

Reminds me of the hunters from Half-Life 2.

One small step for a dog (5, Funny)

poptones (653660) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792936)

One giant leap for Imperial walkers...

Re:One small step for a dog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793078)

they are talking about a big dong not giant leap. wait a minu...

True Test (2, Interesting)

TFer_Atvar (857303) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792956)

Bring it up here to Alaska. I'll believe in the technology when it walks from Fairbanks to Barrow. I'll even let them use bridges to get across the rivers.

This is bigger than you think (3, Interesting)

Oddster (628633) | more than 5 years ago | (#22792962)

Robot locomotion of that quality is probably one of the most difficult problems to solve - the robustness of that thing was quite impressive - it survived rubble, snow, ice, and a solid kick that sent it tumbling. I'd really like to know how they did it, if they just managed to perfect current techniques with enough DARPA money or came up with something new - I would imagine it required some very accurate sensors and actuators, and a super-high-precision inverse-kinematics solver. If they can couple that together with a super-accurate local navigation system - which I imagine would be the easy half in comparison - then they've got a huge platform to launch consumer-grade robots if they get to a low enough price (and they do something about the noise). Maybe I will have a robot butler in my lifetime, but it looks like the military gets their mules first.

Re:This is bigger than you think (1)

F34nor (321515) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793706)

...robot butler, how about a robot horse? This thing would be more fun to ride thana damn Segway. It makes me think of the devices out of Diamond Age.

Either way Robot butlers are a total waste of time and effort. It costs about $150 dollars to buy a person through human trafficking. Go get a real butler for a fraction of the cost. Granted you might have to train them but when they realized they are going to making your ass mint juleps instead of being raped for 10 years on the streets of Paris they might even be pretty happy about their job.

Cool, yes. Useful? (3, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793146)

This is a pretty cool tech demo, but at the moment, its battlefield utility is zero. That two-stroke engine buzz is going to alert every bad guy for miles around.

Since it needs to be able to exert pretty big forces very quickly, I doubt they're going to lower the power requirements, so I highly doubt they're going to be able to use a quieter power source like batteries or fuel cells. Nothing beats the power-to-weight ratio of internal combusion.

Me, I'd go with a real live mule instead for all applications you'd use this in. Same payload capacity, not much bigger, totally silent, self-refuelling, costs $hundreds rather than $hojillions.

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (5, Insightful)

stiller (451878) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793232)

This is a pretty cool tech demo, but at the moment, its battlefield utility is zero. That two-stroke engine buzz is going to alert every bad guy for miles around.
You assume that they'll use it for stealth operations. Not everything on the battlefield needs to be stealth. A tank is pretty noisy, still, it has it's place. For example, in a forrest situation, you might be able to hear it, but you won't see it until it's in a line of sight. And then it's a matter of your reaction speed versus that of a robot. Also, you could simply flood a battlefield with these things - think thousands - and give them all an explosive payload. You just got yourself a thousand kamikaze dogs (or more accurately, locomotive claymores).

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793580)

but you won't see it until it's in a line of sight

Yeah, because I left my IR goggles on my bunk.

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794454)

>>For example, in a forrest situation, you might
>>be able to hear it, but you won't see it until
>>it's in a line of sight.

>Yeah, because I left my IR goggles on my bunk.

Wow, your IR goggles let you see through trees!
You sure those aren't xray specs?

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (1)

PontifexPrimus (576159) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793692)

The sound could also be used as a weapon, to damage enemy morale. The German StuKa bombers [wikipedia.org] had sometimes air-powered sirens attached to their planes, to scare and frighten the civilians. This is also used in many computer games - you can't see the enemy, but you hear a whirring or buzzing sound and you know he's somewhere close.
And to add to your idea: don't use thousands of robots; just use thousands of tape recorders. Seriously: if those things can't be made stealthy, just hide the noise of the real one by using secondary sound sources.

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (1)

bigmouth_strikes (224629) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793238)

> Me, I'd go with a real live mule instead for all applications you'd use this in.

I guess you've never heard of mules being stubborn...

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22794180)

I guess you've never been out there, starving...

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (1)

Physics Phi1 (1258722) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793324)

I've heard that some US troop in Afghanistan use real mules for transport on patrol, since they can cover the terrain better than vehicles can but don't provide warning of your approach like helicopters do (and you can see things more easily from the ground).

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (2, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793558)

Me, I'd go with a real live mule instead for all applications you'd use this in. Same payload capacity, not much bigger, totally silent, self-refuelling, costs $hundreds rather than $hojillions.
Self-refueling? That rather depends on the terrain you're on. Totally silent? Until it brays (or whatever mules do) at exactly the wrong moment and ruins your ambush.
Livestock needs to be taken care of every day, is much more maintenance-intensive than anything mechanical. It also can't be stowed in a container for easy long-range transport.

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (1)

mblase (200735) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793768)

Me, I'd go with a real live mule instead for all applications you'd use this in. Same payload capacity, not much bigger, totally silent, self-refuelling

On the other hand, a mule can't be steered by remote control (well, not humanely) or be programmed to reach a pre-designated GPS coordinate and return after a certain time.

Re:Cool, yes. Useful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22794042)

You'd be surprised about the coordinates thing... Actual smugglers have been using actual mules for centuries (if not millenia). You walk them across the border carrying corn for tortillas, load them up with whatever inconspicuous and highly illegal packages you need ferried back and set them free. They'll make their way home under their own steam, eventually - while you cross the border back with nothing more interesting than keys and a couple dollars in your pockets.

We're all doomed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793156)

skynet is comming ;)

Sure, everybody loves the robot dog... (1)

dgun (1056422) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793174)

...until it humps your leg, or pees on the floor, or chases the robot cat.

Re:Sure, everybody loves the robot dog... (1)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793594)

pees on the floor

No, everyone knows that they drop little batteries on the floor. If you don't believe me, see Woody Allen's "Sleeper".

Baby Steps (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793218)

This to me looks like it has the equivalent walking ability of a relatively newborn animal. Robotics is definitely progressing to the point of rudimentary natural motor skills.

A decade or two from now with improvements in batteries allowing for stronger and faster motors along with an increased number of quicker processors and you'll have something that will truly resemble natural animal movement. It wasn't that long ago that the pinnacle of robotic movement was stiff and insect like.

More like "Big Fly" (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793240)

Aside from the lack of a third pair of legs, the combinations of a pair of panniers at the front that look like a pair of compound eyes, the black colour scheme, the shape of its legs, and the incessant buzzing the thing emits, all came together and made me think of Brundlefly.

Creepy. But obviously highly sophisticated (or they found a simple rule and implemented it well).

Those newfangled measure units ... (1)

psergiu (67614) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793436)

How many firkins represent those 340 lbs ? Please use good-old-standard measure units people ...

Another use I come to think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22793448)

A use that many people probably would consider much more appealing than military is to aid disabled people - that is, maybe it could be turned into a wheelchair replacement. There would be no need for ramps and many more places would become accessible.

Re:Another use I come to think of (1)

MrBandersnatch (544818) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793820)

It's sad to admit but that will probably only come about after this thing has been adapted for the mass market as a transportation devise for overweight Americans. Until then it will just be too damn expensive for the majority of people who would really benefit to afford to buy. So how long before we start calling people "mojo" ya think?

Re:Another use I come to think of (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22794206)

Ah, but only disabled steampunk white racist villains use powered walking chairs!

Amazing (1)

rocket22 (1131179) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793726)

I'm not an expert in robotics, just have basic training but I find this video *amazing*. Really!

I see it has a ton of real life applications if it can really behave this way. I wonder when we'll see this machines moving stuff around on super-markets, helping to load trucks, boats, and so on. And I guess its first real application will be somehow related to military use.

Ok, you can walk ... (1)

scrambledhelix (902472) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793868)

come back when you've learned to run.

Not that it isn't fascinating to watch the progress of technology in robotic locomotion, but I have to agree with some of the earlier posters: it's like watching a young calf learning to walk. That only makes it a slow pack mule for generally any terrain -- but it might be more practical to have specialized robotic mules that can handle a particular terrain very efficiently, rather than one quadruped robot with only evenly moderate transportation skills on all terrain. That said, I'm sure it will come in handy in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan and Waziristan.

But until this thing is capable of ambulatory sprints, there's just no room for it on a battlefield. My two cents.

The jump... (2, Interesting)

loafula (1080631) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793886)

I was amazed the first time watching this when the robot jumped the mat. It appeared that the bot was smart enough not only to jump the exact width of the mat, but also nimble enoug to plant it's front and back legs in exactly the same places. I watched through a second time, and while the legs do plant in the same spot, the mat is actually moved a few inches back while the robot is in mid-air.

Career regrets (3, Insightful)

ShannaraFan (533326) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793952)

That is just so friggin cool. Seeing stuff like this makes me regret spending 20 years sitting in various cubicles twiddling database bits...

Calf (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 5 years ago | (#22793980)

I don't know how many of you have seen a newborn calf, but its gait and motion when it jumped (at 3:02 in the video) looked exactly like that of a very young calf.

Freaky! (1)

maillemaker (924053) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794088)

The thing actually looks kind of creepy because it actually gives the impression of being /alive/.

I hope they fix the annoying whine it makes though. :)

Re:Freaky! (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794174)

The whine can not be fixed. The robot is made in cooperation with Unseen University, and therefore has a swarm of bees as a brain.

The Fly ? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#22794408)

It looks like they've put two donkeys and two flys into Jeff Goldblum's machine, and this is the result.
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