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March 04, 2006

Amazing: Robotic "Pack Mule" Exhibits Stunning Nimbleness

Really, really cool.

A nimble, four-legged robot is so surefooted it can recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick. The machine, which moves like a cross between a goat and a pantomime horse, is being developed as a robotic pack mule for the US military.

BigDog is described by its developers Boston Dynamics as “the most advanced quadruped robot on Earth”. The company have released a new video of the robot negotiating steep slopes, crossing rocky ground and dealing with the sharp kick. View the impressive clip here (28MB Windows media file).

“Internal force sensors detect the ground variations and compensate for them,” says company president and project manager Marc Raibert. “And BigDog's active balance allows it to maintain stability when we disturb it."

This active balance is maintained by four legs, each with three joints powered by actuators and a fourth "springy" joint. All the joints are controlled by an onboard PC processor.

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.

Okay, sounds good, right? Wait till you see this video of the thing in action.

It is not the lumbering, clunky robot you're used to.

Thanks to DDG.


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posted by Ace at 09:49 PM

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