US army unveil latest weapon – the robodog of war

September 16, 2008

The US army is poised to unleash the dogs of war – four-legged, petrol-powered robots to help its troops in battle.

Billed as ‘the most advanced quadruped robot on Earth’, BigDog has been devised to support American troops by carrying up to four packs of equipment on awkward terrain unsuitable for wheeled vehicles.

Standing at over 2ft tall and more than 3ft long, BigDog comes equipped with all manner of high-tech gadgets, including laser gyroscopes, a video camera sensor system and a sophisticated on-board computer – but, sadly, no wagging tail.

The 11 stone machine, created by Boston Dynamics, can trot along at up to 4mph – although researchers are hoping to create a much faster version capable of travelling at 22mph – and will even stay on its legs when it is kicked hard in the side.

Its legs are designed to work in a similar way to a real dog’s, even storing energy in shock absorbers when a foot touches the ground.

The machine looks like some of the robots in the Star Wars movies and has developed a cult following on the internet.

The £14million BigDog project is being tested across a five-mile trail used to train the US Marine Corps, carrying the soldiers’ equipment to prove that it can cope with holes, steep slopes and water hazards.

Project manager Robert Mandelbaum said: ‘Some of the wars we’re engaged in now happen to have that kind of terrain. The idea is to look at the way nature has solved different robotics problems.’

Boston Dynamics hopes that each BigDog will cost about the same as a small car. Ultimately, the firm also aims to use the technology for non-military purposes, such as carrying loads for farmers in areas that are difficult to reach.

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