March 05, 2006

Have you ever seen a robot mule stumble around as if dancing to the sound of a model airplane engine? (Second link = YouTube video with sound)

This is the BigDog, developed by Boston Dynamics for military purposes. Big Dog is a four-legged robotic mule, which begs the question why they named it after a dog, but that's military intelligence for you. The thing staggers around, feetless legs doing a techno folk-dance even while it's not going anywhere, able to negotiate any terrain except one that might occur on a battlefield. Accompanied by the 130 decibel whine of something that sounds like an angle-grinder, it is unlikely to be of any use in a situation where stealth is required; i.e., war. Like a real dog, it is able to withstand being kicked by a man wearing sneakers or the occasional python boot without falling over, however if you shoot it with a RPG it will disintegrate. Watch the video of how it recovers its balance when lightly shoved by a nerdy engineer, it's quite creepy. As is the robot.

  • Now I'm upset.
  • Spooky. Uncanny. I thought that guy that shoved it was being an asshole. But that's because the only things that I have seen walking on four legs, up until this moment, have been animals.
  • )))! That is very cool indeed - what a great mode of human transport if they could incorporate a quieter engine! *ponders opening trail rides business*
  • BigDog ain't nothing, you should check out their BigSheep (nsfw) that the military means to replace "comfort women" with.
  • Nu-uh. There are two anorexic contortionists inside. I've seen them in Cirque du Soleil (sp? I don't care) Oh, and I'm calling the SPCR. Oh, and impeach Bush. The fucker.
  • monkeylion, you spelled it correctly. I shudder to even imagine how much money was wasted in developing and building this thing.
  • Some things to consider about robo-pooch. If it's powered by a two-stroke engine it's going to need to carry it's own fuel supply. If it's not muffled, it's going to give away any troop's position that's using it. If it has fuel on board, either in it's fuel tank or carrying it's own fuel (do you think the troops should have to do this?), once the shooting starts and that thing's hit, it could blow up further endangering the troops safety. Interesting idea, I just don't see any real purpose for it in a combat environment. In conclusion re the 'ain't it cute' angle, imagine that thing mounting a machine gun, shotgun, turret-mounted weapon and it's chasing you down in your small third-world country. Seem cute now? I didn't think so.
  • Yeah... why wouldn't you use a real mule? Unless you need to send it into a volcano or something.
  • It's really creepy to watch. I think it's the black covered legs. If you could see the metal struts, it wouldn't look so much like some kind of horrible Sci-Fi cyborg creature. Also, I want one.
  • "Why wouldnt you use a real mule?" Because you can't fit them with GPS and tell them to "walk to this location." Also - they're not stupid enough. Mules will run away from gunfire. 2 Stroke Engine/Fuel Thingy - It's a proof of concept, right? A prototype at best. The power source is relatively unimportant at this stage of development (compared to - say the walking on its own and being able to sustain a kick in the ribs and keep going). Armour plating? fuel cell? Whatever - those problems are miniscule in comparison to a fully ambulatory random terrain equine robot... (FARTER?) " was wasted in developing"... Could have done all the work of the Mars rovers in about a day at the speed it walks... I would imagine that would knock a few hundred million straight off of the bill for that particular bit of space exploration... (of course, its not going to Mars like that - but its worthy of experiment, no?) Also I want one too.
  • Ghah, that was a quease-inducing little trip into the Uncanny Valley; its gait and especially the way it caught its balance reminded me of calves... robotic, headless calves. Brrr.
  • It eerily reminded me of a greyhound, which made me think of mothninja's pups, and that made the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. There are immediate uses for it that are not military in nature. It can scout out hazardous or hard to navigate terrain (underground, collapsed buildings/tunnels, minefield etc...) to look for survivors or objects. Waterproof it, and you might send it scouting at the bottom of lakes and rivers.
  • Like if some Giger painting depicticting an hideous genetic experiment gone wrong had come to life. And the fact that yes, it's destined to end up carrying explosives into some underdeveloped hell for fighting terrurishts is the scariest thing of it all.
  • It did look very like a cyborg of some sort... very uncanny.
  • There are certain realms in which mankind was not meant to venture, and weirdo walky robot things is one of them.
  • I certainly don't have any combat experience, but this whole concept seems to me of limited usefulness. I would be very interested to hear someone like a Master Sergeant weigh in with their opinion. If you use it in any situation with a high likelihood of combat, I would imagine it would be a bullet magnet even if it was silent. After all, the enemy would have to assume it's carrying armament supplies. The thing's not going to be smart enough to duck under cover. If the situation is secure enough to assume a low likelihood of enemy contact, then it seems much easier, quicker and more useful to simply drive in the supplies with a jeep. If the terrain is so impassable that a jeep is useless, such as jungle or mountain, I can't see this thing getting through either. The only limited possibility I can see off the top of my head are in the middle of combat, when some men are pinned down and you can't risk human lives attempting their re-supply (you'd probably only try once though).
  • Could you use it to help colonize new planets?
  • Golf caddy!
  • Agree with muteboy, seems more like a NASA-designed gizmo for offworld exploration.
  • The question is exactally how good is it with the re-supply? With GPS you could program it to travel to the fridge and back to the couch, but would it be able to get the beer out?
  • "It was the unexpected stuff, however, that made a M.U.L.E. a M.U.L.E. He was born - if you can call it that - in an underground lab in the Pacific Northwest. A major defense contractor had gone out of its way to get the job and they were stoked. Stoked, that is, until the detailing robots went out on strike. Costs ran over. Senators screamed. And when the dust had cleared, the job was finished by a restaurant supply firm, a maker of pre-school furniture, and the manufacturers of a popular electric toaster. It shows." Never actually played that one, but EA's Archon and Adept... aah, good memories.