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Boston Dynamics Unveils AlphaDog Quadruped Robot 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-will-chase-you-in-your-nightmares dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Boston Dynamics, the company that created the BigDog quadruped robot, has unveiled a new, bigger system called AlphaDog. AlphaDog, a DARPA-sponsored project, can carry a payload of 400 pounds for up to 20 miles without having to refuel, and it's also much quieter than BigDog. The robot is designed to assist humans in carrying heavy equipment over rough terrain, and Boston Dynamics' schedule has the first walk-out of AlphaDog taking place sometime in 2012, when U.S. Marines will begin to put the robot to the test for real."

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Boston Dynamics Unveils AlphaDog Quadruped Robot

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  • by durrr (1316311) on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:45AM (#37566330)
    Put horns on it, produce 2000 of it and have them charge the enemies. I assure you it will discourage warfare like nothing else.
  • The sheer act of seeing things like that running around on the battlefield is likely to be pretty unsettling for enemy combatants. One step closer to mechwarrior.
    • by xMrFishx (1956084)
      Now all it needs are glowing red eyes, teeth and a flame thrower to top it off. Watch out for the next prototype called DevilDog or HellHound.
      P.S. Excellent work.
  • Watching it maintain its stance after being shoved the second time was un-nervingly reminiscent of a spider, but watching it get back up from its side was the icing on the terror-cake. I've already had awful visions of Asimo indefatigably running me down, now that thing's going to be pracing through my nightmares.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The next evolutionary step is Asimo riding the AphaDog into battle.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        You finally chop off all of AlphaDog's legs with a fire axe, then it splits open like some horrible pinata and Asimo steps out and strangles you to death.

  • why not a mule (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:50AM (#37566396)

    A mule is a quadruped and can carry 200 pounds a lot farther than 20 miles. It has much better AI, it refuels with easily obtained biofuel, and in a crunch you can eat it!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Ok Mr. Smartypants, how are they going to spend 10 million dollars on one of these "mules"?

    • Re:why not a mule (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Friday September 30, 2011 @09:57AM (#37566478)

      On the other hand it won't walk continuously without rest or on-hand guidance towards an arbitrarily chosen remote destination, and it's not going to make your enemies crap themselves in horror.

      • There has been interesting work done on insects attempting to combine the advantages of the two...

        Remote control cyborg beetles [youtube.com] have electrode implants in strategic parts of their nervous system, allowing you to steer them around at your command, while taking advantage of the fact that bugs beat the hell out of microbots at flight performance.

        A large mammal would presumably be more complicated; but(in principle), one could graft computerized guidance into something like a mule, allowing it to be steer
      • by danlip (737336)

        But a mule is thousands of times cheaper (don't actually know how much the military pays for one of these, but I would guess it's in the millions, plus R&D costs). And providing fuel for the war in remote parts of Afghanistan is a huge cost, in money and lives (lots of troops die protecting fuel convoys). So it's really rather ridiculous to try to replace a mule with this thing, especially for a nation that is spiraling into financial disaster.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          But a mule is thousands of times cheaper (don't actually know how much the military pays for one of these, but I would guess it's in the millions, plus R&D costs). And providing fuel for the war in remote parts of Afghanistan is a huge cost, in money and lives (lots of troops die protecting fuel convoys). So it's really rather ridiculous to try to replace a mule with this thing, especially for a nation that is spiraling into financial disaster.

          You can't mount big guns on the next generation of mules and remote control them from an island in the Indian Ocean

          • You can't mount big guns on the next generation of mules and remote control them from an island in the Indian Ocean

            Pfffffft. Lack of vision.

            A true evil villain would mount big guns on mules anyway. Now to design a railgun that can fit in the saddle...

          • Not with that attitude, anyways.

        • Re:why not a mule (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday September 30, 2011 @11:29AM (#37567622) Homepage

          But a mule is thousands of times cheaper (don't actually know how much the military pays for one of these, but I would guess it's in the millions, plus R&D costs). And providing fuel for the war in remote parts of Afghanistan is a huge cost, in money and lives (lots of troops die protecting fuel convoys). So it's really rather ridiculous to try to replace a mule with this thing, especially for a nation that is spiraling into financial disaster.

          Ever worked with a mule? There is a reason that the phrase "mule headed" exists. It takes a skilled handler to get mules to go where you want them to. In xstan, granted, there are probably lots of people with mule herding experience. When we invade Canada, not so much. Shoot at the mule, the mule goes the other way. Mule food is expensive and bulky and they don't do well on a diet of JP8. Want to drop a dozen mules out of a C17? Go ahead. We'll watch.

          So there are reasons for Alpha dog, aside from the techno cool factor. Horses for courses, I suppose.....

        • The nice thing about a robot is that you can bring it with you in a truck and not worry too much about it for months on end. It will sit patiently, consuming nothing, until the one time you want to use it. ie. we need to move this equipment to this observation post halfway up a mountain where no roads exist. Oh, and EVERYTHING needs to be in place in a single night. When the mission is done, the robots can sit patiently till the next time.

          Mules are good if you are moving supplies day in day out. But if y
      • by hexagonc (1986422)
        It also doesn't frighten easily from gunfire or explosions, can be mounted with guns, doesn't take years of training to handle (once the software is developed), can (eventually) be mass produced much faster, can be hauled and stored easier, won't arouse the heckles of PETA, can be remotely controlled without putting a human handler in danger, is a stepping stone toward more advanced robotics . . ., etc
    • Multifunction Utility/Logistics and Equipment vehicle (MULE) [wikipedia.org] IS cancelled but Lockheed Martin probably still owns the name, the ideas and a bunch of other legalish things related to any army robots called mules.

    • 1) Better AI for now.
      2) Relatively easy biofuel depending on the region, but this uses none when not in use. You always feed a mule.
      3) Less of a PR fiasco if a robot dies compared to an animal.

    • Re:why not a mule (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Friday September 30, 2011 @10:34AM (#37566930)

      A mule is a quadruped and can carry 200 pounds a lot farther than 20 miles. It has much better AI, it refuels with easily obtained biofuel, and in a crunch you can eat it!

      Came here to say this.

      I would add that a mule is nearly silent, which comes in handy when people with guns are looking for you.

    • by Xiver (13712)
      Good luck in getting a mule to sprint into combat.

      I just put "stubborn as a" into google and what do you think popped up?
      http://www.google.com/search?aq=f&gcx=c&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=stubborn+as+a+ [google.com]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      And can a mule walk around on Mars or the Moon just as cheaply? How about dragging wounded out of a battlefield covered in nerve gas or simply full of noise and sound?

      There are many advantages automata have over living creatures Not to mention that poo-pooing this kind of technology in its infancy is the most certain way to prevent developing even better stuff.

    • by treerex (743007)
      It can be disabled with a single shot. It doesn't even need to be a particularly well placed shot.
    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      1) Easily disabled (even a small glancing blow will be enough to make it unusable)
      2) Will run away at the first sign of violence ( ... "Hey, all my survival gear is getting away!").
      3) Hard to train (stubborn as a what now?)
      4) Noisy (I mean, silent as the grave, right up until the point it starts braying like a car horn)

      Or perhaps the most important point- AlphaDog is designed by a robotics company, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Researching and developing complex new technologies i

      • Actually you might be surprised on that last point. I was briefed a while back on some non-classified work DARPA is funding and some amazingly low tech and interesting ideas are in the pipe. During that meeting if they had mentioned a live mule research program, it wouldn't have seemed out of place.

    • Special Forces in remote areas of Afghanistan for example.

    • Strap an injured soldier onto a mule, tell it to return to base, and see what happens.

      Or

      Load up a mule with ammo and medical supplies, tell it to head to the unit 9 miles out into the desert, and see what happens.

  • I wanna ride it up to the store, maybe slap an animatronic wolf head with glowing heat seeking eyes too.

  • I have a cheaper/better/faster alternative to this

    It can go for miles, can refuel automatically off of native vegetation, can be taught new commands in the battlefield, and is self-replicating.

    It's called a HORSE!

    • True, and when you're not using it you can just shut it down to save fuel.
    • by synapse7 (1075571)
      But with these you won't have animal rights activists hounding you when you install horns and send waves charging the enemy.
      • by Zemplar (764598)
        Great idea. Let's just mount horns on the animal rights activists and send them towards the enemy!

        Once the enemy deals with them, we can use the horses.
    • by dasunt (249686)

      It can go for miles, can refuel automatically off of native vegetation, can be taught new commands in the battlefield, and is self-replicating.

      It's called a HORSE!

      Well, it may be cheaper. It could be faster. But horses require a lot of care and can easily be injured or killed.

  • While rolling to center will work on a cement floor, I'd like to see that trick done on a hillside in the weeds and trees.

    • by Hadlock (143607) on Friday September 30, 2011 @10:54AM (#37567146) Homepage Journal

      Considering the current alternative is a radio flyer wagon, one could argue this is better than no self-righting option. Off-road jeeps aren't terribly easy to right, but they weigh considerably more, and don't have a self-righting mode.
       
      I can see dog and cow-sized versions of this on the battlefield in 10 years, but I think the ultimate goal is to put a .50 cal mounted machine gun on one of these things, or some sort of light artillery, so you can remotely place light artillery on top of a rocky hill, far from convenient roads. Self righting a walking vehicle designed to replace a 12,000 lb towed artillery gun/trailer and the truck needed to tow it, in the field - baking in a self-righting system this early in the design phase seems like a good idea, no matter how crude. You can always expand later. Many insects in my garden don't have a self-righting mechanism, so one might say we're already one-upping nature.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        About the only post so far which actually makes sense. The military plans on using these things to deliver ammo and pull the wounded on a stretcher from the front line. Talk is abound about .50 call support, light mortars, and possibly even something larger light a 20mm or 30mm cannon. Lots have dumbly stated a horse or a mule is a replacement for this but it absolutely is not. When you can give a GPS coordinate to a horse or a mule, have it travel that 8-10 miles in and 8-10 miles out, after delivering car

  • I vote for a quad flash system that combines the power of 1,000 pro cameras to absolutely ruin the night vision of people walking around at night for hundreds of meters in all directions. Non-lethal, silent, and the soldiers can co-ordinate to look away/close eyes better than terrorists who HAVE to watch the men they are about to attack/ambush at night. Maybe even an invisible, infra red only version mixed in?

    Nothing says 'run away' like a weird looking robot thing flashing the light of a hundred suns into

  • Anyone think this thing can stand up to a fire hose? It might be 'water-tight' but I have a feeling it can't pull itself out of 6 inches of mud...yet. Spry that sucker down and get the ground nice and muddy. How about a 4 foot wide crevice with a piece of plywood and dirt on top? Right now these things are creepy, but not the kind of thing I'd be intimidated by in a battle situation... but that day is coming fast.
    • by djrogers (153854)
      This is designed to augment a fire team - i.e. 4 armed men, with 100lb backpacks, on foot. I think if a guy with a firehose gets close enough to the squad to hose this guy off, either the squad or he will have more pressing issues to worry about... As for the mud, the previous version did very well in snow tests - I'd imagine mud will get worked out eventually as well.
  • So the article says it's much quieter than the bigdog system but in the video the alphadog appears to be hydraulically tethered. I don't think the on board engine is running.
    • I think they made a mistake. Wait until we see field trials on this thing, I bet it has the same freaky buzzing noise that Big Dog has when it isn't hooked up to all the wires. Go watch some of the old Big Dog videos when it's in the lab, it's just as quiet. Personally I think the buzzing noise is the most intimidating part of it. Imagine a couple hundred of those thing marching at you making that sound, the noise alone would freak the enemy and send shivers down their spines.
  • The Galactic Empire called, they wanted to send that after George Lucas for his crimes against Star Wars.
  • That's not a dog. That's a burro. Dogs can jump. But seriously. Really cool bot. I hope they can program it to jump.

  • Seriously. Puns intended.

    Nice tech, but some of their claims are a bit of a stretch. It looks like a film demonstrating milestones to a sponsor. It's power comes via en umbilical cable and it rights itself on a level floor using plywood cams to do the roll and stop.

    When compared to a donkey or mule, 4 legged robots have a long way to go. I live in Colorado and have done pack trips with animals. Here's what comes to mind:

    • Animals are cheaper and can self replicate.
    • Animals walk almost silently. Anythi
    • The Brazilian army uses buffalos to this job, where you can not drive a truck through.
    • by Yetihehe (971185)

      When compared to a donkey or mule, 4 legged robots have a long way to go. I live in Colorado and have done pack trips with animals. Here's what comes to mind:

      - Animals are cheaper and can self replicate.
      BigDogs won't be working day and night, animals need food (and water) constantly. They can self replicate, but it takes awfully long and takes animal out of service.
      - Animals walk almost silently. Anything that stomps can be heard for miles.
      Donkeys also make sounds. They are pretty noisy too.
      - Animals can run pretty darn fast, and can cut and quickly dodge.
      Try to convince a donkey to run 20 miles.
      - Animals auto detect nearby predators and have more sensitive hear

    • by Carnildo (712617)

      Animals are cheaper and can self replicate.

      Horse production has a four-year lead time. To put this in perspective, if the United States had started ramping up horse breeding for a growing Army logistics need with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the first horses would be available about four months after Japan surrendered.

  • Check out the competitors quiet quadruped carrier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFPYPJ_6OH0 [youtube.com]
  • I would love to see how this thing would react to someone laying down a massive carpet of small ball bearings in front of it. The sound of Fred Flintstone running in mid-air comes to mind.
  • Did you guys see that? When it rolled over and stood up? Man it kind of freaked me out a little how good it was at that, considering how godamn heavy it must be.

    • I thought it was kind of chunky just walking normally and might be supported by the umbilicus but once the guy starting shoving it sideways I got chills. It recovered just like an animal would. Very impressive.

  • The leg movement and stability control on that thing is unnerving. I think its a case of movement being the cause of an uncanny valley rather than appearance.

  • ...China is getting Super Powerful, the HONEST way (I'm not Chinese btw...Scandinavian), but the point remains... ...logical thinking, quoting Boston Dynamics testing schedule:

    " Boston Dynamics' schedule has the first walk-out of AlphaDog taking place sometime in 2012, when DARPA and the U.S. Marines will begin to put the robot to the test for real."

    Yeah? 2012 eh? Something planned for us there big "old" brother?

    Recapping for the weak of mind:
    1) US. Was strong.
    2) US. Wants oil.
    3) US. Interferes with those c

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