March 4, 2006 Boston Dynamics has released images and details of BigDog, which it is billing as the most advanced quadruped robot on earth. If that seems like a tall claim, check out this video of BigDog (Caution 27MB WMV) doing its thing by walking over uneven ground, up slopes, over piles of rocks, snow, through water etcetera – though clearly still in development, BigDog is incredibly impressive and we challenge anybody to view the movie and not see BigDog’s future potential as a perfectly-mannered mechanical pony for children, as an all-terrain four-legged “wheelchair” that can take a 90-year-old for a walk over an orienteering course or a mechanical mule to carry all your camping gear into the middle of the wilderness or … much, much more. In short, BigDog is a quadruped robot the size of a small horse, and could equally have been called a robotic mule, because its skill sets are pre-destined to see it pressed into military service as a mule-like carrier companion for soldiers where conventional vehicles cannot go. Initially developed with funding from DARPA, BigDog’s raison d’etre is to carry ammunition, food and supplies into battle. BigDog can walk, run at speeds up to 3.3 mph, climb over rough terrain or up slopes up to 35 degrees and carry heavy loads – currently up to 120 pounds, but as development goes on, that figure might be significantly increased. BigDog is currently annoyingly noisy thanks to power being delivered by a gasoline engine that in turn drives the hydraulic actuation system for its legs. BigDog is much more than a dumb mule however - it is a pointer to the future - a wonderful example of humanity learning from the biomechanics and energetics of animal movement to build better robots that will serve humanity in many endeavours. Go on, check out the video - we promise you'll show all your friends. Check out the article's images gallery to see clips from the video and schematics.
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