Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics The Military

BigDog Robot Gets Much Bigger 158

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-I-keep-him-seargent? dept.
savuporo writes "Well known Boston Dynamics BigDog prototype now has a bigger brother named 'LS3' or Legged Squad Support System. It's intended to carry heavy loads for long treks and have enough autonomy to follow soldiers around, listen to voice commands and navigate autonomously."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

BigDog Robot Gets Much Bigger

Comments Filter:
  • LOTR Quote (Score:5, Informative)

    by deathcow (455995) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:07PM (#38971271)

    The LS3 Moves So Loud, We Could Have Shot It In The Dark

    • I'd still prefer to have a flying car.

      Although a pack of these trampling your village would be pretty fearsome.
      wait, no, make them bigger... 1/2 truck size.
    • by fyngyrz (762201) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:27PM (#38971587) Homepage Journal

      Thinking about this from the viewpoint of the opposing commander, I'd make this thing the first target. Why? Because the soldier, initially free from carrying some part of their current 100 lb load because of the LS3, will then have to shoulder (whatever is left of) the load -- and they won't have the correct pack, harness, etc. to do it, so it will slow them down even more than the original state of packing the 100 lbs prior to the advent of the LS3. Not to mention that shooting at the LS3 will probably put some highly inconvenient holes in the soldier's equipment.

      A properly configured mobile force -- at the individual combatant level -- carries everything it needs in an optimally loaded manner. Start adding in support vehicles -- autonomous or piloted -- and what you have done is put the soldier's supplies at risk, and therefore, likely the mission as well.

      OTOH, these would be great in civilian roles. With a decent muffler system...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That's why it would fit in a pretty niche role with the current sound level.

        On the front lines in a battlefield? Forget it, due to noise.
        Flat terrain in a controlled area? Obviously far better to use wheels.

        You could theoretically have these advancing somewhat behind the front lines in uneven terrain, in big packs, especially when you don't have control of the air. Not sure how big a role that is to fit these into, but the US Army is pretty big.

        • by Jeremi (14640)

          That's why it would fit in a pretty niche role with the current sound level.

          I wonder if there is a reason why it has to be so loud... are they running it on diesel or something? Perhaps they could replace its power source with something quieter, e.g. batteries or a fuel cell.

      • all you're really saying is put the expendable gear on this thing and suddenly your guys have less chance of being shot at.
      • by Dynedain (141758)

        But what about the idea of a supply chain that doesn't need roads?

        The US army still trains mules and pack horses and has a remote training facility in the High Sierras. Turns out this was pretty useful for the Afganistan arena. This could be a good replacement for pack animals.

        • by sgtrock (191182)

          Bingo. This is definitely not a do everything, infinitely survivable means of logistical support. However, if it can beat out a mule for a reasonable price, why not keep a small unit or four around?

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          This could be a good replacement for pack animals.

          Except that a pack animal is far more intelligent, can help keep you warm when it's very cold, warn you of unseen danger or bad/unstable footing (by getting "spooked"), help you find water, can be self-fueling to a greater or lesser extent (grazing), and, when food supplies run dangerously low, aren't too bad with some salt and garlic!

          These machines have a long, long ways to go yet to beat a good pack animal IMHO.

          Strat

          • by CptNerd (455084)

            Not to mention self-repairing as well, and even able to create multiple replacement copies. Well, given certain parts were not removed beforehand, of course.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Thinking about this from the viewpoint of the opposing commander, I'd make this thing the first target.

        OTOH, The machine is so loud that it would make it easy to pick off the soldiers accompanying it one by one from a distance, until the machine is alone and you get both the machine and whatever it was carrying. Besides, I'm assuming that robot takes a lot more bullets to take down, so it would be much harder to bring down while being defended by the soldiers. It just makes no sense destroying a machine which poses no risk.

      • by mollymoo (202721)
        I'd shoot the people. Each one of them you take down - and I bet they're easier to take down than a robot pony - is 200 lbs more the squad has to carry, reduces the carrying capacity by 100 lbs, reduces their firepower, costs the enemy more money and personnel, and damages morale a hell of a lot more than the loss of a robot.
      • by drfreak (303147)

        Yeah, I was thinking about the noise as a strategic con too. No stealth missions for that gear. Your suggestion is especially appropriate and brings new life to the old Indian tactic of taking out the trailing member of the squad first.

    • Yeah so much for the element of surprise. Try fighting the VC with that loud beast tagging along.

      Yet another reason to ditch petroleum and use electric instead. Hopefully DARPA will invest in energy storage tech.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:49PM (#38971917) Homepage

      50 comments down there, and not a mention of an AT-AT. For shame, slashdot.

      I'll leave now before you all start pulling out your Precious'es.

      • by RMingin (985478)

        I read 'Big Dog" and "much bigger" and was INSTANTLY in AT-AT land.

        I'm glad I wasn't the only one.

  • It's a bit bloody loud, isn't it? Ah well, need to start somewhere I suppose. At least this wasn't a tethered demo.
  • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:10PM (#38971331)

    Whatever you call it, it's still creepy without anything resembling a head.

  • Pack behavior (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:10PM (#38971341)

    It would be entertaining if it exhibited pack behavior. 30 or 40 of them running around together would be pretty interesting to see.

    • by rvw (755107)

      It would be entertaining if it exhibited pack behavior. 30 or 40 of them running around together would be pretty interesting to see.

      You mean like this [youtube.com], but then on the ground.

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:29PM (#38971617)

      Narrator: See the LS3's in their natural habitat. Once a day these lumbering creatures collect around the petrol pond to hastily drink up their day's supply of the vital fluid.

      camera shows a small spark flying out of one LS3

      Narrator: LS3's produce small bursts of electricty - sparks - from time to time. These natural occurences are typically benign and merely help to distinguish these graceful creatures from their organic counterparts.

      camera shows a close up with the label "dramatic recreation" at the bottom of the screen, showing a spark hitting gasoline

      Narrator: However, when these sparks meet with petrol, disaster can strike.

      camera pans over the gasoline pond, this time on fire and with wrecked husks of LS3's in it

      Narrator: Our crew returned to the gassing hole a mere hour after our initial visit, and already the herd has been ravaged by the fire. The raging inferno has consumed the herd. Such is the natural order of things in the urban jungle. Even so, with the next war, the Department of Defense will place a new order, and the LS3's will once again roam free

      • Re:Pack behavior (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LoP_XTC (312463) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:45PM (#38971873)

        Okay people admit you read this with a slightly British accent in your head :)

        • I'm glad it was read that way. It was certainly written with that accent in mind, which is why I dropped the word "petrol" in for the narrator instead of using "gasoline" when he spoke.

        • by isecore (132059)

          "Slightly british"? I read it with freakin' David Attenboroughs voice in my head.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        It sounds pretty benign as long as you have David Attenborough's voice doing the narration...

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Narrator: See the LS3's in their natural habitat. Once a day these lumbering creatures collect around the petrol pond to hastily drink up their day's supply of the vital fluid.

        camera shows a small spark flying out of one LS3

        Narrator: LS3's produce small bursts of electricty - sparks - from time to time. These natural occurences are typically benign and merely help to distinguish these graceful creatures from their organic counterparts.

        camera shows a close up with the label "dramatic recreation" at the bottom of the screen, showing a spark hitting gasoline

        Narrator: However, when these sparks meet with petrol, disaster can strike.

        camera pans over the gasoline pond, this time on fire and with wrecked husks of LS3's in it

        Narrator: Our crew returned to the gassing hole a mere hour after our initial visit, and already the herd has been ravaged by the fire. The raging inferno has consumed the herd. Such is the natural order of things in the urban jungle. Even so, with the next war, the Department of Defense will place a new order, and the LS3's will once again roam free

        Sounds like LS3OD.

      • Actually, I imagined them locating gas stations near the battlefield, ripping up gas pumps, and unreeling rubber proboscises to feed.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:10PM (#38971345)

    It's intended to carry heavy loads for long treks and have enough autonomy to follow soldiers around, listen to voice commands and navigate autonomously

    Except for the "navigate autonomously" part, that sounds like a Marine.

  • Look at me, I'm a dandy prancing (headless) pony.
    Is there a non-high-stepping mode?
    At least one need never worry about it sneaking up and prancing one to death.
  • by Ender_Stonebender (60900) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:17PM (#38971421) Homepage Journal

    Do you ever wonder if it would be cheaper and easier just to go back to using horses? I mean, we've been breeding them for hundreds of years...and I'm sure we could make some Kevlar-and-ceramic armor for them to protect them from bullets and shrapnel...

    I suppose the advantage is that robots don't need to trained not to panic in the middle of battle. But I still wonder if chasing a technological solution is the wrong path.

    • How are we ever supposed to produce skynet and the terminators if we go back to horses? Come on!

      Also, there's a moral issue with conscripting innocent animals into a war role. Apparently there's no such moral issue with using machines to kill people.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Horses can't carry quite as much (especially not with armor), can't really navigate autonomously, and don't generally come with recharger plugs for equipment. Plus, the end game is to strap guns to these things and cut out a lot of the human element altogether.
      • by hrvatska (790627)

        Plus, the end game is to strap guns to these things and cut out a lot of the human element altogether.

        One of my first thoughts when I saw the video was a ground based drone.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        Looks like what youd get if a donkey f****ed a lawnmower.

        I' d rather have the donkey. Or you can buy a little ATV that outperforms this walking nightmare every way you can think of. Say a John Deere Gator 825. Comes with a muffler too which the smart boys in Boston never thought of.

    • by hrvatska (790627) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:35PM (#38971723)
      When not in use pack animals still need to be cared for. That means feeding and watering, cleaning the area they're stabled in, and veterinary care. I assume when these robots aren't in use they just need to be stored in an appropriate container. My guess is that it would be easier to get one of these robots into a remote area by air than a pack animal. And if a leg goes bad on one of these robots only the leg needs to be replaced. If a leg goes bad on a pack animal it probably needs to be put down, and then you have to bring in a whole new pack animal.
      • by guanxi (216397)

        Machines don't require maintenance? Especially high-tech, cutting edge machines with lots of moving parts, used in hostile environments?

        Even M-16s require maintenance. I imagine BigDog requires plenty also.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      I thought about that too but then realized that you can not put a mule in a crate, take it out a month later and expect it to perform. Animals take a lot more maintenance than machines and they do not transport well on unpressurized aircraft.

      • by Leuf (918654)
        Why would you ever not want to be at war for a whole month? What's needed is a genetically engineered horse or mule that is patented and requires genetically engineered food that is also patented (You wouldn't want the enemy to be able to just steal your $100k horse and be able to feed it with grass, would you?). Then the military will buy millions of them.
    • by WiseWeasel (92224)

      Not only cheaper and easier, but much more practical as well. They don't give away you position from a mile away (unless startled/attacked), and they refuel with grass and water, which are much easier to come by on a mission than gasoline. This looks like just about the biggest waste of money I've ever seen.

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)

      US forces do use pack mules in Afghanistan. Not sure about horses. I guess this could fill some part of that role, without the stubbornness. Though I'd imagine the robot is harder to keep alive over long distances.

      http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-donkeys7-2009jul07,0,3448109.story [latimes.com]

      "It's a very primitive way to carry very modern weapons," said Sgt. Joe Neal, one of the instructors. "But it works."

    • by knarf (34928)

      Horses? You'll be hard-pressed to find a more finicky, vulnerable and easily damaged animal than a horse. One mortar shell in close vicinity and your supplies are on their way to Dagestan. If the horse does not bolt, it will founder instead, or eat something it shouldn't, or walk straight into something sharp, or break one of those matchstick legs, or... or... or... Better to carry the pack yourself.

      Horses are not made for war. Neither are humans, but we happen to be so dumb as to go looking for it voluntar

      • An old friend said, "Horses have two purposes in life, to eat and get away." I added, "and one more thing every few weeks if there are any mares around ..."

    • by Cyberax (705495)

      Horses are actually used in mountainous regions. But they are gentle creatures and require a lot of care, you need to feed and water them. And unlike humans (who can live a day or two without food) a hungry horse quickly loses its stamina.

    • by hey! (33014)

      When you aren't using your robot, it sits in a packing crate somewhere. When you aren't using your horse, you have to feed him, exercise him, and muck out his stables.

      Don't underestimate the difficulty of maintaining a lot of draft animals. Back in the pre-gasoline days forage was a severe limiting factor in maintaining operations. In the New Jersey campaigns 1776-1777, General Howe lost the "hearts and minds" of the American colonists, and thus arguably the war, because of the pressure finding forage put o

  • by Megahard (1053072) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:19PM (#38971449)
    If you toss barrels with a gravity gun?
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:21PM (#38971485) Journal

    Sensors online.
    Weapons online.
    All systems nominal.
    Initiating silly walk.

  • by isotope23 (210590) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:24PM (#38971521) Homepage Journal

    congratulations, you've almost re-invented the HORSE!

    • by Kozz (7764)

      Exactly what I was thinking... but then again, BiggerDog is so much better, because its manufacture would employ hundreds, which is good, because when one is destroyed on the battlefield, replacement cost is likely in the six-figure range. How else would we prop up the military industrial complex?

  • These news are always amazing and at the same time a bit scary. Or is it only just me?

  • I prefer my robot overlords with wheels. It lets me know where I stand with them.

  • chasing autonomous cars? Or robot cats?
  • ...listen to voice commands ...

    And in the real world
    BigBigDog: Rararararararararararararrr
    Marine: Go over there
    BigBigDog: Rararararararararararararrr
    Marine: BigDog! Go over there
    BigBigDog: Rararararararararararararrr
    Marine: F*k it.
    Marine goes and carries BigDog to desired location.

    They definitely need a quieter version otherwise it's just not going to work!

  • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:25PM (#38971571)
    Please PLEASE have the things say, in a deep electronic voice, "Woof. Woof. Woof. Woof." while walking. If they do that, I will buy all of them immediately.
  • Now we just need to discover Smithore and we'll be all set to go to planet Irata.

    Rob

  • Real horses are quieter, self-fueling, self-reproducing, and a lot cheaper. I fail to see the advantage of this robot version. And before someone says you can kill horses with a bullet, if you put a bullet through the sensors or generator of this robot, it's not going anywhere either.

    • by lorinc (2470890)

      Unfortunately, horses may exhibit terror behavior and run totally amok.

      • The past few thousand years of Warfare seem to be able to breed and train Horses who keep their cool much better then their solders do.
        • The past few thousand years of Warfare seem to be able to breed and train Horses who keep their cool much better then their solders do.

          There were no machine guns and mortars in those "past few thousand years" to frighten them a lot...

    • by jfengel (409917)

      Ever work with real horses? They require a lot of training, they're skittish, and they're fragile. Horse people say they're born looking for a way to die. They're not as self-feeding in the desert, and require epic amounts of water.

      You'd be better off with a mule or camel, creatures not known for friendliness. You need highly skilled operators. And they require care every day. They don't shut off.

    • by Rostin (691447)
      I wouldn't be so quick to assume that horses are "a lot" cheaper, especially long term. They continue to self-fuel (and require frequent maintenance) even when not in use.
    • by hrvatska (790627)
      Think about the amount of care pack animals requires on a day to day basis and you'll start to see the advantage of a robot like this. It's not like there's nice pasture and clean water available where ever there's a need for something like this.
  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:29PM (#38971629) Homepage
    That is, weld an M134 minigun on it, and have it carry just the gun and the ammo.

    Then put a soldier behind it and let him fire the weapon. You get the certainity of a human presence & control, the high firepower and ammo capacity of the M134, all on the ground, capable of close quarters urban combat in buildings. (Not to mention that it would probably deafen everyone within 50 ft.)

  • Why not use one of several existing cheap, proven bio-mechanical, intelligent solutions with long [wikipedia.org] track [wikipedia.org] records [wikipedia.org]?

    • by RichMan (8097)

      Those get spooked by loud noises, and are subject to SPCA and other organization complaints.
      bigdog does not spook, and can be abandoned in theatre if damaged.

      Also I wait the landborne armed drone implementation, aka ED-209

      • by guanxi (216397)

        Those get spooked by loud noises, and are subject to SPCA and other organization complaints.
        bigdog does not spook, and can be abandoned in theatre if damaged.

        My solutions have been used in battle for centuries. I'm pretty sure they can be trained to not spook. And I'm also pretty sure that they can be abandoned in theater if damaged.

        They have many advantages, including that they are cheap, easy to replace, infrastructure and logistics for them were worked out long ago, and they can be powered anywhere there is something green growing, or even on the troops' own supplies.

        Also I wait the landborne armed drone implementation, aka ED-209

        They are already intelligent drones. DARPA is bragging that BigDog can avoid obstacles and fo

      • by ianare (1132971)

        Horses have been trained not to spook [wikipedia.org] for thousands of years.

        Horses not only can be abandoned, but can also be eaten [wikipedia.org] in times of need.

        The land drone has been done [wikipedia.org] too, though this has been criticized [animalrights.net] by animal rights groups.

    • I wonder, how would a horse or a donkey behave during a mortar strike, when fragments start flying around.

      (aside from the obvious "thrashing in pain after catching a fragment" or "dead")

  • With a 400 pound payload, this machine can carry (maybe) the full combat gear load of four soldiers, or more practically half the load for 8.

    Global Security documents that the average rifleman's combat load is 91 pounds [globalsecurity.org]. Some of this is going to stay with the soldier. Remote special forces units packs will be much higher, as they must be more self sufficient. Combat pack weight is almost directly determined by the capability of (and the soldiers confidence in) the supply train.

    If you have the luxury of go

  • Yea it is cool... However you will probably get more bang for your buck with Horses... They do the same thing that the robot does but better and quieter. They have been tested valuable in warfare in the past.

    The only advantage I see with the robot is you can turn it off for week or months without much maintenance.
  • by kaizendojo (956951) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:51PM (#38971951)
    but can also transverse it!
  • by gentryx (759438) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:52PM (#38971959) Homepage Journal
    BigDog may look like a dog, but LS3 looks like a horse. Imagine how great this could be: every soldier gets his own LS3 to ride on. With these they could go effortlessly anywhere, even when no roads are available. Just like in medieval times...
  • With a thousand young! Ia!
  • ...in that its super expensive and basically useless on the ground...

    No, wait, its the same.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:00PM (#38972109) Homepage

    This looks like an intermediate prototype of the LS3. The specs call for a quieter power plant, which has to run on standard military diesel fuel. There's a subcontractor working on that. Clearly, that hasn't been integrated yet.

    The LS3 is supposed to be about the same size as BigDog, but with with much stronger legs. That's clearly what's being tested here. BigDog wasn't strong enough to get up from the ground, while the video here shows this machine getting up. It took a lot of custom hydraulics to do that, which is why Boston Dynamics teamed with a hydraulics company.

    Also, the sensor suite is much more elaborate, indicating that the autonomy level is being increased. BigDog handled balance and locomotion, but was guided by a human with a remote.

    What we're seeing here is that some of the hard problems have been solved. Now the design will presumably be cleaned up for production.

  • by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:14PM (#38972329)

    Legs are cool and all, Star Wars, but it seems a properly designed tracked unit would be much more efficient and able to carry significantly more load.

  • So, someone pops out of the bushes and shouts "Return home!"

  • Now what is going to happen to all of my "Wheel" stock? First they obsolete the internal combustion engine, then came the paperless office, now this.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

Working...