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Robotics The Military Hardware Science

DARPA Puts $32M Toward Quadruped Robot Prototype 64

Posted by timothy
from the either-that-gives-you-heebie-jeebies-or-it-doesn't dept.
The Installer writes with this selection from GizMag: "Walking quadrupeds are being cast to play a major role in the rapidly unfolding age of robotics. The platform promises versatility far beyond that of wheeled-vehicles and will undoubtedly find applications in a wide variety of fields. Not surprisingly, the development of quadrupeds is being driven by the military and DARPA has recently boosted its efforts by awarding Boston Dynamics $32 million for the prototype phase of its Legged Squad Support System (LS3) program. ... LC3 is conceived as an autonomous support pack-robot for ground troops that can carry 400 pounds or more of payload, sustain itself for 24 hours and cover 20 miles in almost any kind of terrain."
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DARPA Puts $32M Toward Quadruped Robot Prototype

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  • Why four legs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by immaterial (1520413) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:05AM (#31208762)
    Wouldn't six be more stable, distribute weight better, and be more redundant in case of failure of a limb? The only advantages I can think of to four is better efficiency (maybe? Having to move fewer limbs should be a plus, but on the other hand they'll each also have to be more powerful) and a slightly more compact form. Is it worth it? I'd certainly find a couple extra limbs convenient; you'd think a military robot in potentially harsh conditions would also find a couple spares very useful.
    • by goldaryn (834427)

      Wouldn't six be more stable, distribute weight better, and be more redundant in case of failure of a limb?

      Extra limbs are a whole extra level of complexity in terms of limb control and present extra vulnerabilities as well as extra benefits. Like with anything, limbs present diminishing returns; millions of years of evolution has settled on 4 limbs as a good number for a large land creature.

      Or, if you prefer "God made it that way".

      Or, "4 legs GOOD, 6 legs BAD"

      • by goldaryn (834427)
        Quick joke: What has 3 heads, 2 arms, 2 wings and 8 legs?

        A man sitting on a horse with a chicken on his head
      • Re:Why four legs? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by immaterial (1520413) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:52AM (#31208908)
        Well, was there a time when vertebrates ever had six limbs? I thought we'd just happened to pop out of the water that way; given that we vertebrates have all kept our basic layout since then, I wouldn't really say evolution ever had the opportunity to try six limbs on a large land creature.

        Obviously more legs doesn't necessarily mean better. Why not eight, like the last guy said? There's an advantage to redundancy but like you said there are disadvantages as well. It just seems to me like six would be a happier medium between the two.

        You need three points on the ground to remain relatively stable without getting into balance issues. Of course a good robot could balance itself on two - hell even a Segway can do it - but lets say in a complex situation like trying to climb a steep rocky hill in Afghanistan in a hurry you want as much stability as possible (note a person in that situation will be using their hands for additional stability too). To move while doing that requires at least one more limb, for a total of four. If there is have a failure in just one limb, you've reduced the robot's stability by quite a bit. I just seems to me like six would be worth it in varied terrain - I mean, if all you're going to do is bound across the plains all day like a gazelle the extra limbs may not be useful, but I'm imagining these things in more steep, mountainous areas as well, where extra footing could be a huge asset.
        • Well, the way in which a Segway balances is not exactly comparable to the manner in which a biped balances. What with the wheels and all.
        • but lets say in a complex situation like trying to climb a steep rocky hill in Afghanistan in a hurry you want as much stability as possible (note a person in that situation will be using their hands for additional stability too)

          This, of course, is why mountain goats have six legs.

          • by argent (18001)

            There is no evolutionary mechanism for mountain goats to acquire additional legs.

            • by timeOday (582209)
              Debatable. But there certainly is an evolutionary mechanism for animals to lose 2 legs - simply by standing erect - and many have.
              • by argent (18001)

                We're not talking about re-purposing limbs, we're talking about changing the number of limbs completely. There are a few examples of animals that HAVE completely lost limbs, but there are still occasional cases of vestigial limbs in snakes and whales. There's no examples or evidence in genetic or archeological history of any species derived from the earliest land animals with more than four limbs, so the evidence is overwhelming that the number of limbs was genetically set long before there were any land ve

                • by timeOday (582209)

                  We're not talking about re-purposing limbs, we're talking about changing the number of limbs completely.

                  I'm not. Arms are not legs. The fact that some large land animals (us & our near relatives) went from 4 to 2 casts doubt on the idea that 6 would be better than 4.

                  • by Nivag064 (904744)

                    We have 4 limbs same as a horse, but in our case two are specialised legs and the other two can be used as legs or as specialized manipulation devices.

                    As has been said elsewhere, evolution of land mammals and reptiles occurred after 4 legs had become the maximum. For such complicated organisms, evolving six legs would have meant a prohibitive number of individuals in vastly uncompetitive configurations for lots of generations, so much so that the probability of winning your favourite lottery every year by

                  • by argent (18001)

                    The issue is not "are there circumstances where fewer legs are better". There are circumstances where NO legs are better (whales and dolphins, for example), and there are circumstances where at least four legs are necessary (any climbing animal, where there's a need for a 'moving tripod' gait) and more would be desirable (look at all the animals, including our relatives, with prehensile tails).

                    It is "if there are circumstances where six or more legs would be better, why don't we see large six-legged land an

            • True, but if having only four legs while clambering around on a mountain was truly that great a deficiency, then mountain goats would not have evolved to include mountains as part of their habitat.

              • by argent (18001)

                Evolution is not a directed process. It finds local optima, an organism can't arbitrarily jump from one local peak to another, can only (and ironically in this case) climb the hill it finds itself on. It's not that four legs are a deficiency, it's that downplaying the possibility that six may be an advantage because an algorithm that wasn't able to experiment with six legs in a particular problem space didn't develop it is likely short-sighted.

        • by Patch86 (1465427)

          Erm, well there are lots of animals which have different numbers of legs (crustaceans and insects 6, arachnids and cephalopods 8, etc.). Over the course of billions of years, most designs have been given a chance at competing in most areas.

          I don't think it can be a coincidence, completely outside of the mechanics of evolution, that more than 4 legs are prolific in small animals (crabs and large bugs at the largest) while most larger animals have gone for 4 or less. Arguing that this has absolutely nothing t

          • by argent (18001)

            I don't think it can be a coincidence, completely outside of the mechanics of evolution, that more than 4 legs are prolific in small animals (crabs and large bugs at the largest) while most larger animals have gone for 4 or less.

            The reason that large land animals all have four legs is likely nothing more than chance.

            All large land animals are evolved from a common ancestor that acquired the traits allowing them to become large land animals (such as an internal skeleton) BEFORE they came onto the land. One o

        • by nameer (706715)
          A pogo-stick is effectively a balanced 1-leg system. Marginally stable, but doable.
        • by Nivag064 (904744)

          I agree that having 6 legs would be good, armoured cars have 6 wheels rather than just 4 for the same reason for improved redundancy (ege better able to operate with one or more wheels/legs out of commission). Also as you have said, it would make it easier to cope with rugged terrain.

          I think that normally 8 would be overkill, also more legs are not necessarily be better as they would have to be lighter and more easily damaged by enemy activity. However, I think 4 legs is too few.

          I have thought about this

        • Uh, Evolution has had plenty of experience with hexapods (spiders) and a plethra of arrangements, some less than symmetrical (crabs).
          Very often, extra limbs are more valuable for manipulating food, than for motivation and become "arms", "claws", etc...

          I'll bet they could have offered a prize of 1/10th that amount and got 10 better designs.

      • by DoninIN (115418)
        4 Limbs is a good number, I'm not going to dispute that part.
        But the way you say "Evolution has settled on 4 limbs" you make it sound like there's been a lot of trail with 5 6 7 13 or whatever. Your fishy little tetrapod (Someone who knows the right terms should bail me out here.) pre-amphibian ancestors just got lucky. They, and the whole suite of their adaptations were found to be suitable to flop in and out of the water and survive. This is not to say that there's anything superior about 4 limbs as oppo
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      How much you wanna bet that military scientists are not yet evaluating this thing?

      http://www.techfresh.net/six-legged-logging-machine-prototype/ [techfresh.net]
    • Crypto: 0
      As-Received-By: OOB shipboard ad hoc
      Language-Path: Arbwyth->Trade 24->Cherguelen->Triskweline, SjK units
      From: Twirlip of the Mists
      Subject: Blighter Video thread
      Keywords: Hexapodia as the key insight
      Distribution: Threat of the Blight
      Approved: yes
      Date: 8.68 days since Fall of Relay

      I haven't had a chance to see the famous video from
      Straumli Realm, except as an evocation. (My only
      gateway onto the Net is very expensive.) Is it true
      that humans have six legs? I wasn't sure from the
      evocation. If t

    • Four legs good, two legs bad. The government enjoyed riffing on 1984 so much they've started on Animal Farm.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Animats (122034)

      No, four legs are better for a large machine. There's a tradeoff between leg working envelope, vehicle length, and top speed.

      There was a big fad for six-legged insect robots in the 1990s, led by Rod Brooks at MIT. Those were very slow, very dumb, and had a very wide stance. Six legs don't scale up well. One big issue is inertia.

      Double the dimensions of something, and it gets four times as strong (strength comes from cross-section) but eight times as massive (mass comes from volume.) This is called

  • Duplicate story (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajknott (313187) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @04:06AM (#31208766)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by beef3k (551086)
      you must be new here... it should be more like:

      DUP3!
      1. Post dupe on Slashdot
      2. ????
      3. Profit!

      In soviet russia you dupe slasdot!
  • Guess no t1000, sounds like we need to worry about robotic mr Ed: "I'll be back Wilbur"
  • Congratulations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by srussia (884021) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @05:12AM (#31208966)
    from TFS: LC3 is conceived as an autonomous support pack-robot for ground troops that can carry 400 pounds or more of payload, sustain itself for 24 hours and cover 20 miles in almost any kind of terrain

    They just specced a camel!
    • Nothing was said about spitting.
      • The picture does make it look like it has a mouth (that seems to be a lookout point?)

      • by hey! (33014)

        You don't understand this grant process, do you?

        You always leave something for the next proposal.

    • by peragrin (659227)

      um I have never seen a bullet resistant camel before.

      That is the big difference between this and real animals the ability to survive(or easily repaired) after being shot

    • A camel will eat anything semi green.

      (and can be bought for the meagre price of your wife, or $500, whichever comes first)

       

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      If a Camel gets a leg blown off, can you replace it with a spare?

    • They just specced a camel!

      Can a camel be stored in containers, air-dropped from autonomous under-radar aircraft and fitted with remote controls, heavy weaponry, and multi-spectral vision?

      OK, that would probably get DARPA funding too, but I think the point stands.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "They just specced a camel!"

      I put my assigned camel in War Reserve Material (WRM) storage, properly wrapped with desiccant packs, then charged the container with dry nitrogen.

      When my unit deployed, we opened the box, but camel was all wrinkly, very quiet, and wouldn't get up. Attempts to jump start it off a slave cable from my truck were unsuccessful. The design needs work.

    • except a camel can go several days... and live off the land.

  • Who is going to build the cable-towing tripping mechanism? ATAT
  • ... prototype phase of its Legged Squad Support System (LS3) program. ... LC3 is conceived ...

    LC3? Where'd that come from?!? Why do so few of you submitters ever bother to re-read your own submissions? Assuming you can read.

  • Just wondering if Forth - or the so-called "Toilet Flushing Forth", to the Forth community's friend -- "werty" - is the programming language enabling these modern day robots? It would be about time after a 30 year hiatus from moving a telescope in Arizona. Better late than never, I guess. ;)

  • I hope you have all seen the big dog vidoes. If not here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww [youtube.com] Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the loudest bee sound you have ever heard. Only its not bees its thousands of those things with guns strapped on their back. This is what i dream about at night.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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