DARPA releases video of new-and-improved LS3 quadruped robots


September 11, 2012

The two new LS3 prototypes, showing their stuff in DARPA's video

The two new LS3 prototypes, showing their stuff in DARPA's video

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Fans of freaky-looking robots will already be familiar with DARPA’s quadruped Legged Squad Support System, or LS3 (although it’s also known as Big Dog by its builder, Boston Dynamics). Yesterday, two prototypes of an improved version of the LS3 were demonstrated, and DARPA has posted the video to show off what’s new.

The basic purpose of the LS3 is to serve as a sort of pack mule, carrying heavy gear for troops over rugged, varying terrain. It can follow them autonomously, and respond to verbal and visual commands.

Among the improvements in the new version of the robot is reduced operating noise – it is approximately one-tenth as loud as the original version, allowing soldiers walking next to it to carry on a regular conversation.

According to DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, “Other improvements include the ability to go from a 1- to 3-mph [1.6 to 4.8 km/h] walk and trot over rough, rocky terrain, easily transition to a 5-mph [8 km/h] jog and, eventually, a 7-mph [11.3 km/h] run over flat surfaces, showing the versatility needed to accompany dismounted units in various terrains.” As can be seen in the video below, the new robot’s ability to right itself after falling over was also showcased.

Yesterday’s demonstration was mainly for the benefit of Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar. It took place at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Virginia.

Source: DARPA via PopSci

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Real pack mule can provide companionship and/or be emergency rations.


looks like it could do with losing a few pounds!!! still it's great to see such innovation, moving forward it could mean greater mobility for less able individuals?


I am a bit surprised that it is still quite noisy and still very inefficient compared with a horse or donkey. It might be worth using with a few more years refinement.


Interesting project and a little bit of a nod to the future autonomous warfare described in countless movies such as The Terminator...the only difference is that this threat is home-grown, not from another solar system.


The difference between this and a horse/mule/ass is its ability to work remotely to the operator, potentially carry a greater payload and you cannot mount weapons to a horse - it will react badly when a gun starts firing.

For a simple efficient and flexible means of carrying an average load over rough terrain in support of personnel a mule is still a handy solution.

It will not be long before robotic devices such as this conduct routine patrols and even see fighting drones engage an enemy.


Where does the fuel tanker go behind it?


The enemy would hear them coming for miles!!

John Pescod

A real mule could eat grass at the side of the road. Not sure if this thing is bulletproof or not. Maybe they should look into body armor for mules.


re; EUbrainwashing

You can train pack animals to ignore the sounds of war; it is in fact not particularly difficult once you accept that a percentage of them simply are not suitable. New York City has mounted police and from the horses perspective an urbane environment is not that different from a war zone.

It should not be too difficult to design a remote control unit for a horse or mule. All it would take is a smart phone, ear-buds, a few vibro-pads, and a solar collector to keep it charged.


Pretty weird. Should of used a Honda generator because they are super quiet.


Why not ride it like a horse ?

Max Houston

Looks creepy as hell.. Just getting it off my chest. It should be more horse like. Have it fun on a bio fuel. Give it a horse like head so it can eat surrounding foleage and then it can turn it into a fuel to run on,Make it light but strong enough to ride with compartments like a small trunk for supplies. That would be a good robot!


The mule vs. armor debate was settled in in WW1. It's not coming back. This is of course an early, proof-of-concept model. Given some armor and weaponry it would be a devastating weapon in the military's hands, saving more of our troops while killing more of theirs.

Bill Wilson

re: John C. Pescod

How can you hear it for miles? Soldiers can carry on a conversation right next to it. I'm curious to how much weight the LS3 can carry. It seems pretty nimble.

Craig Hubbs

I'm surprised observers do no realize that the noisy power pack is just there to power the quadraped development platform. There is no reason to believe that would be present in the final product, or a power source is even part of BD's development focus.

Paul Axford

It's still a long ways from AMEE, in that stinker of a movie "Red Planet".

Gregg Eshelman

re; Bill Wilson

In WWI the senor British Cavalry officer ordered all his subordinates to stay more than 5 miles away from tanks. Had they instead moved through the breaches in the enemy lines created by the tanks the would have had a high ol' time and made the infantry's job easier as well.

The US army used pack mules used in the Burma Theater in WWII. Some were delivered to the combat units by pushing them out of C-47s with parachutes.

The Russians effectively used "horse cavalry" (actually they were dragoons) in WWII as well.


so where do the 50 caliber(s) mount?

bet a couple portable LARS rockets would be a no brainer too.


Hmm? Is this how the Darleks started? All that is needed is an insane twisted Davros and where's Dr Who when you need him? :-P

Karsten Evans

I can definitely see these with some armor and a couple of gattlings mounted front and rear...


re; Karsten Evans

Darleks started in the deranged imagination of a crippled, and evil megalomaniac intent on galactic (if not universal) domination. This is just a robot mule.


Horse or donkey? This doesn't get scared. No fear, no panic, perfectly silent when it's still. Could also be filled with weapons that could be fired remotely. Great way to get supplies into tough place with no risk to life.

Dave Andrews

With so many animals going extint from poaching, these robot and the ones at disney may be the only animal looks things around in a few years..


Mount the system to a wheelchair for handicapped individuals

John Sweet

@Pikeman You are right, and very wittily said.


when this thing come running at me, My VTEC will kick in JO!!!! :) damn amazing and awfully scary at the same time...

Michiel Mitchell
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