Canine (Robot) Companions

DARPA’s pup has been trained to follow the pack!

Militaries around the world view physical exhaustion of their soldiers as one of their main challenges, since soldiers often have to carry loads of up 50kg on their backs through rough, volatile terrain. So why not ease the load with the help of a four-legged robot?
We’ve mentioned this project in a previous post but now, in collaboration with Boston Dynamics, The Us’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agengy (DARPA) has given us a peek at the latest version of AlphaDog, also known as the Legged Squad Support System (LS3).

The LS3 did well in prior lab tests but now it’s been let out to play in the open air. Previous models of the robot were already able to overcome unexpected obstacles and carry a heavy load but perhaps the most impressive feature in the newest model is that the robot can now respond to certain commands, much like its live furry counterparts. It can also be “trained” to follow a particular person and it has sensors that allow it to distinguish between different objects such as trees and rocks. Being able to detect these obstacles, it can also make autonomous corrections in order to avoid them and continue on its path. This summer Alphadog’s expected to be tested on a course of over 40km while carrying a load of about 200 kg. Do you think it’s up for the challenge?

Alphadog is being developed for military purposes, but it’s not hard to envision other distinct applications for a biomimetic bot such as this one. This type of robot could be useful in a wide range of situations that are often physically taxing for humans: search and rescue missions, space and deep sea exploration and assistance in natural disaster relief. This canine copycat is designed for land use, however other biomimetic bots are being created for both avian and aquatic applications. If you’re interested in the notion of combining nature’s age old principles with today’s cutting edge technology, you may want to check out the the European initiative, robot companions for citizens.

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