Boston Dynamics unwraps military robot AlphaDog (w/ video)

Oct 03, 2011 by Nancy Owano weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Boston Dynamics has taken the wraps off its newest prototype combat escort, AlphaDog, which was developed with funding from DARPA and the US Marine Corps. Waltham, Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics last week revealed the video that shows AlphaDog's capabilities for troop support. Those who have seen the video are calling the quadruped robot such names as Mule Poodle, Monster Mutt and BigDog-on-Steroids, but AlphaDog is its name. The robot is described further as the prototype for the formally named LS3. The latter stands for Legged Squad Support System.

The , once fully ready for combat, will navigate through any rough terrain conditions, and will carry 400 pounds of equipment for 20 miles without having to refuel.

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AlphaDog does not need a driver; it follows along with troops, making use of its GPS, and state of the art hydraulics. AlphaDog is actually the offspring of BigDog, an earlier, noisier, version with limited and operating range. Nonetheless, BigDog was an impressive step forward in the company’s development efforts toward a mule-like pack robot that could support troop movements and carry gear.

BigDog took on four legs articulated like an animal's, with compliant elements to absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. Sensors for locomotion included a gyroscope, LIDAR and stereo vision system

AlphaDog, in comparison, is designed to be over ten times quieter than BigDog, according to the company. This quadruped has the same cargo carrying mission as BigDog, but with better range and payload.

AlphaDog is to debut next year, and the video shows results so far of this latest round of development."This video shows early results from the control development process," says the company. The video has drawn reactions from viewers who are impressed not as much over its ability to maneuver its four legs over rough rocks and logs but rather its ability to stay on balance no matter how hard the testers shove it around.

Boston teamed up with outside groups to assemble the robot. The company worked with engineers and scientists from Boston Dynamics, Bell Helicopter, AAI Corporation, Carnegie Mellon, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Woodward HRT (the latter does motion control systems and components).

When AlphaDog does make its appearance in 2012, and the U.S. Marines will put the robot through tests.

is an MIT spinoff. The company’s president, Marc Raibert said, “If LS3 can offload 50 pounds from the back of each soldier in a squad, it will reduce warfighter injuries and fatigue and increase the combat effectiveness of our troops.”

Explore further: Co-robots team up with humans

More information: via IEEE Spectrum

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AngryMoose
5 / 5 (9) Oct 03, 2011
I want one to ride to work on! Pleaaaaase santa!
Bob_Kob
5 / 5 (7) Oct 03, 2011
Its almost scary how similar it is to a real animal
ScottyB
3.3 / 5 (3) Oct 03, 2011
yeah it is quite creepy
DavidMcC
3 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
Presumably, a "real" version of AlphaDog would have to carry its own power supply. There is no mention of how much a compressor would eat into its load-bearing capacity.
I seem to remember that similar problems (including noise) "dogged" (sorry about the pun!) the military "strong-man" outfit that was supposed to allow a soldier wearing it to demolish walls just by punching them.
CreepyD
3.3 / 5 (3) Oct 03, 2011
When they kick it you could easily mistake it for a real animal trying to stay on it's feet - In fact this probably does a better job than a real animal!
They should dress the final version to actually look like an animal in fur and whatnot so it doesn't draw attention.
Jaeherys
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
@DavidMcC
I'd suspect the information given about load capacity and range would be of the final product which would include it's own fuel and work source.

From the video I can see weights added; maybe to compensate, while testing, for what you brought up?

I guess it could also be for "dead weight" to make it more stable but what engineer would just add weight lol.
Gezza
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
A youtube clip of the original BigDog. This one looks even more spooky. Especially when it slips on the ice.

http://www.youtub...zBcnX1Ww
NANOBRAIN
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
NOW THEY CAN FLY!YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT IS NEXT.LOL
DavidMcC
3 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
@DavidMcC
I'd suspect the information given about load capacity and range would be of the final product which would include it's own fuel and work source.

EDIT: It would be like using a real dog that kept barking!



Maybe, but the other big problem would be noise. That was what "killed" the strong-man machine - noise from power generation.
NotAsleep
3 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2011
When they kick it you could easily mistake it for a real animal trying to stay on it's feet - In fact this probably does a better job than a real animal!

Just tested this theory on my cat... turns out, you are correct in your second statement. I'm glad Boston Dynamics included the "Do not get angry and run away" programming
Jeddy_Mctedder
2 / 5 (9) Oct 03, 2011
this stuff is awesome but will not be ready for use in the field until wildly new technologies come out, in material, energy storage, and neural network fuzzy controllers.......

there is so MUCH to be done to make these things actually useful.

why you ask? well if this thing cannot outperform a real horse, why would you not just use a real freaking horse.

horses , real horses, and real mules, are amazing at doing precisely what big dog is being asked to do.
the ONLY clear advantage to big dog in the field as it stands right now and for the forseeable future is that you can shut it 'OFF'.

otherwise , it's just an expensive piece of civilian hardware that has no applications in the world of fighting, other than logistic base and backup support.
Peteri
3 / 5 (3) Oct 03, 2011
Hmm, funding from DARPA and US Marine Corps - you can see where this is all leading. I wonder how long it'll be before we see the next generation of these beasts - mounted with IR/optical tracking and steerable weapon systems - sent into battle. Let's hope they're NOT fully autonomous and will have a [sane] human operator controlling what they shoot at!
NotAsleep
4.8 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2011
Jeddy Mctedder, although a horse has many benefits over a machine, benefits of AlphaDog over a horse include:
- If AlphaDog breaks a leg, you can fix it with duct tape and a metal rod
- If AlphaDog gets shot, it'll probably keep going unaffected
- You can probably stack several AlphaDogs on top of one another for transport overseas
- AlphaDog will not get sick
- If you need AlphaDog to stop immediately, stay and be quiet, it will
- You can take cover behind an AlphaDog during a firefight and not feel bad for it or expect it to run away

Sure, it's a tradeoff, but in the end the logistical footprint SHOULD be smaller for AlphaDog than a horse. We have yet to see how much regular maintenance they require... probably lots of moving parts on one of these
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (10) Oct 03, 2011
Jeddy Mctedder, although a horse has many benefits over a machine, benefits of AlphaDog over a horse include:
- If AlphaDog breaks a leg, you can fix it with duct tape and a metal rod
- If AlphaDog gets shot, it'll probably keep going unaffected
- You can probably stack several AlphaDogs on top of one another for transport overseas
- AlphaDog will not get sick
- If you need AlphaDog to stop immediately, stay and be quiet, it will
- You can take cover behind an AlphaDog during a firefight and not feel bad for it or expect it to run away

Sure, it's a tradeoff, but in the end the logistical footprint SHOULD be smaller for AlphaDog than a horse. We have yet to see how much regular maintenance they require... probably lots of moving parts on one of these
Yah but you can eat a horse
Cave_Man
2.2 / 5 (6) Oct 03, 2011
Not one mention to the dystopian novel by bradbury fahrenheit 451.

The fireman's firehouse dog is a premonition of this down to the whiny noise it makes. all they need to add is a slew of hypodermic needles/darts filled with poison where the neck should come out and you've got the perfect civilian oppression machine.

How long until we are dealing with shape shifting robots hellbent on killing Sarah Connor?
hemitite
1 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2011
I'd like to see it tap dance!

What this bot needs is some good artificial muscles. It would be a lot quieter and simpler.
NeutronicallyRepulsive
3 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2011
At least the creepy creepy noise is gone.
Skepticus
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 03, 2011
Great work my young apprentices, now put chain guns and rockets on them, build a SkyNet to control them...then the your journey to the Dark Side will be complete!
Norezar
2 / 5 (4) Oct 03, 2011
So, uh...

This replaces the utility of something as simple as a mule how?
NeutronicallyRepulsive
not rated yet Oct 03, 2011
Norezar: Because statistically you're more likely to be trampled by a mule than die in a plane crash.

Also food input and output.
grosyhpgrosyhpgrosyhp
5 / 5 (2) Oct 03, 2011
I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords
emsquared
2 / 5 (8) Oct 03, 2011
I wonder how long it'll be before we see the next generation of these beasts - mounted with IR/optical tracking and steerable weapon systems - sent into battle.

About as long as it takes for us to come up with a viable power system? Someone above mentioned BigDog (which has been around since 2007 or so?), if you're wondering where our tax dollars are and have been going, look no further. Which is not to say this entirely of course, but things like this (Mach 10 missiles, etc.).

Between, say, a functioning educational system, a functioning health care system, or 10s of 1,000s of other government jobs (that could go towards a better functioning society) and 4 legged drones, we have chosen 4 legged drones.

America: the land of completely jacked priorities.

As cool as this is, HOW is this what we have chosen to focus on at this time?? I realize there is no WE in the decision making process, but still how is this acceptable, how are people not taking to the streets over this??
NeutronicallyRepulsive
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2011
It's historically proven, that the elites tend to lobby, corrupt the system, concentrate power, and exploit the electorate when unchecked. It's kind of default action for them. They're very surprised when revolution sweeps the country and executes them, or at least they lose power. Then either a seed of socialism leading to capitalism, communism leading to one party dictatorship or enlightened absolutism is established leading to one man dictatorship is sown. People won't a change, but are unwilling to do anything about it yet. When they will be, they'll do. And then the cycle will repeat itself.
gwrede
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 03, 2011
This (and missiles and stealth fighters) cost peanuts compared to actually engagin in war. Look up "US Military Operations" on Wikipedia. That's where the really big money really goes.
Isaacsname
5 / 5 (1) Oct 03, 2011
Send that thing to Mars. We could run it on pee.
Deesky
4.3 / 5 (6) Oct 03, 2011
They should dress the final version to actually look like an animal in fur and whatnot so it doesn't draw attention.

Right, because a furry, headless torso animal with oddly jointed legs and gait will look more natural. But what's the difference anyway whether the transport is seen as a mule, a jeep or a robot?
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (4) Oct 03, 2011
I don't see that this is any better than a remote controlled ATV. Sure, it might hobble it's way over logs and such, but it's SLOW. An experienced ATV driver can easily negotiate similar terrain.

And ATV's can haul trailers full of supplies too.

Jeddy_Mctedder
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 04, 2011
dress it up like a real mule or pony and then send it into a pen with other mules and ponies. i'd love to see how they react to it. seriously that could be a really good video.
ROBTHEGOB
1 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2011
This will have more utility on Mars, where it can be put to scientific use of some value.
hb_
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
Why is the range limited to 30 miles? Missions into hostile territory can enteil trecking much farther, and the energy density of common gasoline is astounding. Combine a halfway decent engine, a generator and a 20 galon tank you have system with hundreds rather than 10'ns of miles of range.
NotAsleep
4 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
I don't see that this is any better than a remote controlled ATV.

This is arguably better at going over very complex terrain with minimal input, although you make a good point. Sometimes the military designs things with the hope that the next iteration (or the one after that) will be superior to current tech. In theory, this could someday climb a ladder.

Why is the range limited to 30 miles?


Simple: weight savings. A standard foot mission (special forces excluded) will not exceed 30 miles round trip so why add the extra weight? I'm sure the Pentagon will get involved, though, and add guns and armor and stupid stuff like that. See the movie Pentagon Wars for a mostly true story about that... and the F-22 & F-35 are ongoing examples of expert congressional input
Buyck
1 / 5 (1) Oct 04, 2011
We are close whit the really fact that robots are begin to compeed with humans in the future. But first the animal level. By 2030 the diffirence between humans en robots will be little.
Ricochet
not rated yet Oct 04, 2011
And it looks like it'll even roll over so you can scratch its belly!
antonima
not rated yet Oct 08, 2011
I support the notion - why use a goddamn robot when you can buy a donkey (or camel?) in Afghanistan for 500 bucks? Fuel for the donkey is free - it eats grass, its solar powered. Its cuddly, it would boost morale to have a donkey along for each mission. The donkey is warm, in those cold cold Afghan nights. The donkey is edible..

But yeah, its pretty god damn amazing just how well this alphadog navigates. I'm sure they would be able to scale it up and add guns if they got the right grant .. its almost scary how close we are to mechwars. :\

Although maybe its better if wars were conducted by robots?
Isaacsname
not rated yet Oct 08, 2011
I'd pay to see MABEL try to kick it over O:

It would make a very interesting ATV if it were designed more like an anthropomorphic exoskeleton

http://www.youtub...=related
Canman
not rated yet Oct 08, 2011
Look at this link of what DARPA has commissioned from Boston Dynamics:

http://www.popsci...ot-world

first was unmanned aerial vehicles
now I think we are seeing a push for unmanned terrestrial vehicles
They could become patrolling troopers with the ability to fire ammo at high value targets
Just think if an enemy fires at a convoy from the side of the road. Just send a squad of cheetahs to locate, surround, and detain until soldiers arrive for questioning. Or they could just kill the enemy on the spot. In the next 50 to 100 years, this could be the technology which eliminates local armed resistance. No more guerrilla warfare; just invasion and immediate complete domination. Better hope you are on the right side.
Humpty
1 / 5 (2) Oct 10, 2011
Boston Dynamics is an MIT spinoff. The companys president, Marc Raibert said, If LS3 can offload 50 pounds from the back of each soldier in a squad, it will reduce warfighter injuries and fatigue and increase the combat effectiveness of our troops.

Boston Dynamics is run by arseholes who use circular logic - Well Duhh! if you cretins stopped making war on everyone and everything then and profiting from it - just like your corrupt military, industries and government - and your banks, then you would not need soldiers and they would not be getting injuries - or getting shot up, after they shoot at the people who's country they are invading and occupying.
NotAsleep
not rated yet Oct 11, 2011
Although maybe its better if wars were conducted by robots?


This has been a core theme in military discussions over the past couple years. Tactics and strategy aside, the moral ramifications of this make it difficult to cope with. Two nations with the tech to pull off a mech war would totally remove the horrors from the battlefield. Then, when one side won the mech war, would the other side simply give up? Not likely. Then you'd have machines killing humans without regret or remorse. A society like this may never feel a need to stop warring since there would never be a body bag sent home or a crippled war vet in their community. I'm not an advocate for crippling veterans, especially since I AM one... but you can't argue the impact it has on society

This discussion can probably go round and round for eternity. Hopefully the world can find peace before we find a need to test the theory

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