Boston Dynamics shows off latest abilities of AlphaDog (w/ Video)

Sep 11, 2012 by Bob Yirka report

(Phys.org)—Anyone who follows the latest in robot technology is almost certainly familiar with Boston Dynamics' AlphaDog, the mechanical pack mule and descendant of the original Big Dog built at the behest of DARPA. It's all part of what its developers call it Legged Squad Support System (LS3); heavy duty robots designed to carry stuff around for troops walking in the field. Some might call the robots scary, or even creepy, but what is undeniable is that this latest member of the LSSS, is truly impressive. Not only does it appear more confident in its movements than the last time it appeared on YouTube, it does so in quieter fashion and is now able to follow a soldier without assistance.

It might be that many people have watched too many science fiction movies, as there is nothing inherently scary about AlphaDog; he (it) simply marches from one point to the next, crashing through the brush if need be, to the required destination. Perhaps it's because of the size; AlphaDog is a lot bulkier than a horse and likely heavier. It's strong too, able to carry up to 400 pounds of gear and now able to walk for twenty miles before needing a recharge.

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It might be that the line of development seen in the LSSS line incites the imagination, causing viewers to fear the worst. Where once the big pack robots seemed more like pipe dreams for the pentagon, now it appears almost a certainty that these new kinds of robots will be deployed on the battlefield within our lifetime, and maybe as soon as just a few years from now. And because of that, it's not difficult to imagine of them one day storming across terrain fully armed, destroying everything in their path; an unstoppable force not seen since the days of panzer divisions in .

Currently AlphaDog can walk at a pace of just a few miles an hour or trot at up to five; not fast enough to keep up with soldiers who typically move at seven to ten miles per hour, thus, the next goal for the engineers at is to bump up that speed without sacrificing distance between recharges. Based on the progression of development seen thus far, few will doubt they'll achieve that mark, and likely surpass it, which we will all no doubt witness the next time AlphaDog shows up on YouTube.

Explore further: Socially-assistive robots help kids with autism learn by providing personalized prompts

More information: Darpa

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User comments : 39

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El_Nose
1 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2012
Did you see how tall that grass was -- the camera man must not know about snakes.
R2Bacca
1 / 5 (2) Sep 11, 2012
Did you see how tall that grass was -- the camera man must not know about snakes.


Or ticks.
VendicarD
3.9 / 5 (10) Sep 11, 2012
They have installed a muffler on Alpha Dog. Now no one will hear it coming.

I find it interesting that while American Robotics is aimed at assisting in the military effort to murder people, the rest of the world has it's robotics efforts directed to improving their people's quality of life.

Deathclock
3 / 5 (8) Sep 11, 2012
They have installed a muffler on Alpha Dog. Now no one will hear it coming.

I find it interesting that while American Robotics is aimed at assisting in the military effort to murder people, the rest of the world has it's robotics efforts directed to improving their people's quality of life.


Interestingly enough a defense contractor funded by the US military is building a robot for use by the military...

In America individual corporations and companies act autonomously from the government. There are many American companies producing robots to make people's lives better... but the military is going to produce robots for military applications (shocking, I know)
jscroft
1.2 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2012
I find it interesting that while American Robotics is aimed at assisting in the military effort to murder people...


Not ALL people, Scott. Just you.
VendicarD
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2012
Name 3.

"There are many American companies producing robots to make people's lives better" - DeathTard
Ji_Podiv_n
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 11, 2012
Name 3.

"There are many American companies producing robots to make people's lives better" - DeathTard

Ok: iRobot, Evolution robotics, Neato Robotics.
Hmmmm?
VendicarD
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 11, 2012
No.. Seriously... Name 3

"iRobot, Evolution robotics, Neato Robotics." - JiProdlyn
hemitite
2 / 5 (3) Sep 11, 2012
Do you think that they could get it to rollerskat? That would be awesome!
BigPink
not rated yet Sep 11, 2012
It's interesting to see the shape of the thing copy/fulfill the biomechanics of creatures we're familiar with; more horse in this case than dog. One obvious question is if the military development couldn't successfully be twinned off to pursue pack animals for less martial purposes. Technically, of course, but politically, economically, could other drivers of innovation find a use for this stuff. Companies need money and if there's some to be found, you'd have something competing with deathbucks. Dyson spoke about the lust to find out if a thing could be done or seen (he was talking about the Manhattan project) as over-ruling judgement or blunting the sense of where what you're doing leads. I think many techno-kids would be happy making robots for anyone that would allow them to make robots—And that can be why there's very little thought about the long view. Scientists are people like anyone else, not particularly better at dealing with temptation than anyone else.
Deathclock
2.7 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2012
No.. Seriously... Name 3


IRobot is a public company, Nasdaq IRBT, founded in 1990:
http://en.wikiped...i/IRobot

Evolution Robotics has products utilizing computer vision for autonomous navigation:
http://en.wikiped...Robotics

I'm not sure what your objection was, other than you didn't like being proven wrong so quickly and easily... or do you think that "robot" only means something with arms and legs and a head?
VendicarD
3 / 5 (5) Sep 11, 2012
"I'm not sure what your objection was" - DeathTard

It is more amusement at you claiming that a headless, armless, legless, motorized vacuum cleaner is a robot.

Perhaps you also believe that a cordless drill is a robot, or a field tractor, or a wrist watch.. Maybe a Pencil.

Now here is a real robot...

http://www.xconom...0312.jpg
VendicarD
2.5 / 5 (4) Sep 11, 2012
Deathclock
2.4 / 5 (7) Sep 12, 2012
"I'm not sure what your objection was" - DeathTard

It is more amusement at you claiming that a headless, armless, legless, motorized vacuum cleaner is a robot.

Perhaps you also believe that a cordless drill is a robot, or a field tractor, or a wrist watch.. Maybe a Pencil.

Now here is a real robot...

http://www.xconom...0312.jpg


Oh, so I was right, you think robot means something with arms legs and a head... I'm embarrassed for you. You might want to look up "robot" on wikipedia.

"A robot is a mechanical device that can perform tasks automatically. It may – but need not – be humanoid in appearance"

So, yes, the products manufactured by the companies cited are robots... while your examples of a drill a wrist watch, and a pencil are not.

(actually, an argument could be made for the wrist watch... if you consider "keeping time" a "task").
VendicarD
2.4 / 5 (7) Sep 12, 2012
Yup. You believe a cordless drill is a robot.

"A robot is a mechanical device that can perform tasks automatically." - DeathTard

"So, yes, the products manufactured by the companies cited are robots..." - DeathTard

And so are coffee makers.

By your definitiion.

But seriously... Name 3.
Eikka
3.8 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2012
Yup. You believe a cordless drill is a robot.

"A robot is a mechanical device that can perform tasks automatically." - DeathTard


The proper definition is "autonomously", not "automatically".

A cordless drill is not autonomous in any sense. A Roomba is. You set it on the floor, push a button, and it finds its own way around.

And you're just being obtuse.

Another American company that develops robots for the general good of the public is obviously Google with their self driving car. A third would be the DaVinci surgical robot from Intuitive Surgical, and there are many many more.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2012
Then there's also the Timberjack walking logging machine that doesn't damage the forest floor as much as tracked vehicles. I don't know what happened to that, but it was being developed by John Deere some while ago.

Robotics is a big thing in forestry and agriculture as well, with things like GPS-guided combine harvesters etc. that basically harvest the field on their own running day and night without downtime. You just don't hear about that research much often because it's not seen as "groundbreaking" when there's a ready application and a buyer for it, instead of doing something useless like a robotic horse and trying hard to come up with a use for it.

Of course the robo-horse gets all the media attention because they need to drum it up for money. Meanwhile the robotic combine-harvester is just business as usual.
Eikka
5 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2012
The real story of what is happening is, that in the 60's 70's etc. scientists and engineers were hired by the military to do mysterious projects that nobody really knew what they were on about because they didn't want to tell them that they're really developing optical guiding systems for an ICBM or ways to carpet bomb a village while sitting a thousand miles away. They just re-framed the question as a general problem to research and then took the results and applied them separately.

So now the scientists and engineers are doing the reverse. They're claiming to research something relevant to the military, something that can maybe weaponized if you have a vivid imagination, while they're actually just doing basic research in image processing, locomotion, robotics etc. for its own sake.

The big dog is a project like that. The whole premise is quite ridiculous, but it's interesting in the scientific point of view.
panorama
5 / 5 (2) Sep 12, 2012
Very well put Eikka, kudos to you!
Deathclock
3 / 5 (6) Sep 12, 2012
Yup. You believe a cordless drill is a robot.

"A robot is a mechanical device that can perform tasks automatically." - DeathTard


You don't know what the word automatically means? Or do you resort to being ridiculous every time you are proven wrong? (FYI, you do, I've seen it in many discussions with you)
El_Nose
5 / 5 (3) Sep 12, 2012
coffee makers are robots -- everyone understands that -- if they know what a robot is. Most Software is a robot as well. All CS majors understand that. And a whole lot of things are technically AI. Just because you don't like the implications of a definition doesn't change what the definition is.

We live in a world of robots. We live in a world of AI. If it has to look like a transformer for you to be satisfied its a robot then take off all the shiny covers we put on to make it look good. If it has to move for you to consider it a robot look up the definition again.
dave_murphy_9699
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
SHOOT MILITARY ROBOTS ON SITE!
ZERO TOLERANCE!
VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
Neither is a robotic arm that assembles car parts.

http://www.youtub...=related

http://www.youtub...hMVGXLkg

http://www.youtub...=related

http://www.youtub...=related

http://www.youtub...=related

No autonomy there.

"A cordless drill is not autonomous in any sense." - Eikka

Neither are any of the robots shown above.
VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
You are absolutely correct. Your portable drill is a robot. You pull the trigger and your portable drill spins automatically.

"You don't know what the word automatically means?" - DeathTard

But seriously... Name 3.

VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
You are right. Roomba vacuums are improving life on this planet one dirty floor at a time.

"Or do you resort to being ridiculous every time you are proven wrong?" - DeathTard

But seriously.... Name 3. You can do it can't you?

http://www.youtub...fvf6wVXM
VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
Can you tell us how this combine is autonomous?

"Meanwhile the robotic combine-harvester is just business as usual." - Eikka

VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
Two robots that are improving humanity according to DeathTard...

http://www.youtub...embedded

http://www.youtub...uR3ZLV_Y

Snicker....
VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 15, 2012
Roomba - American floor vacuum - fails every time..

http://www.youtub...=related

But it is improving the human condition... or so some claim..

Ahahahahahah...

Seriously... Name 3.
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2012
Can you tell us how this combine is autonomous?

"Meanwhile the robotic combine-harvester is just business as usual." - Eikka


I can, They have a computer system that uses gps coordinates that are set for the size of the field. The machine will then harvest the field automatically including raising or lowering the cutter system to match the crop. Depending on the setup it will also fill a transport truck running beside it or fill it's own hopper system until a truck is available. They will also shut down and call the farmer if there is a problem and send the information about the problem. The systems can be pretty much completely automated depending on how much a farmer wants to spend on it.

VendicarD
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
Really? Which U.S. company is producing those?

"They have a computer system that uses gps coordinates that are set for the size of the field." - packrat

No doubt some tinkerer has made one somewhere.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
If BD are on the path of bio-mimicry, I don't see why they settled on the weird movements of the legs. If you watch the video, it resembles two men carry a load between them, one walking forwards, the other backwards. I have never seen this locomotion arrangement in all multiped fast-moving animals on this planet. Look at a few pics of a running cheetah. The leg structures, the muscles arrangements to provide large,long pushes and to tuck them close to the body to provide clearance of obstacles in full flight. What are the advantages of the Boston Dynamics design? By limitations of current actuators, control algorithm and power sources?
Skepticus
1 / 5 (2) Sep 16, 2012
..I can, They have a computer system that uses gps coordinates that are set for the size of the field. The machine will then harvest the field automatically including raising or lowering the cutter system to match the crop...

Not to seriously questioning the validity of the concept of using GPS for spacial placement, but I have to ask you how they overcome the inherent inaccuracy of GPS, which i believe currently has a spacial resolution of 5-20 m (15-60ft)? that's a lot. How do you avoid the harvester do the harvesting on walk paths and field borders and such?
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
..I can, They have a computer system that uses gps coordinates that are set for the size of the field. The machine will then harvest the field automatically including raising or lowering the cutter system to match the crop...

Not to seriously questioning the validity of the concept of using GPS for spacial placement, but I have to ask you how they overcome the inherent inaccuracy of GPS, which i believe currently has a spacial resolution of 5-20 m (15-60ft)? that's a lot. How do you avoid the harvester do the harvesting on walk paths and field borders and such?


I have no idea,I'm not a farmer. You would have to ask the John Deere company and other large farm implement companies about it. I do know they have had the capability for a number of years now.
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
Really? Which U.S. company is producing those?

"They have a computer system that uses gps coordinates that are set for the size of the field." - packrat

No doubt some tinkerer has made one somewhere.


Try looking up http://www.Dieselprogress.com and other trade magazines. You can find the info yourself if you search through the articles. It is being done by some large well established companies. You know, people that actually do and make things for society instead of sitting in a lab somewhere writing papers full of scientific gibberish. The stuff that is impossible to prove other than in their imaginations and pages of esoteric mathematics that have little or no basis in actual observable reality.
packrat
1 / 5 (1) Sep 16, 2012
..I can, They have a computer system that uses gps coordinates that are set for the size of the field. The machine will then harvest the field automatically including raising or lowering the cutter system to match the crop...

Not to seriously questioning the validity of the concept of using GPS for spacial placement, but I have to ask you how they overcome the inherent inaccuracy of GPS, which i believe currently has a spacial resolution of 5-20 m (15-60ft)? that's a lot. How do you avoid the harvester do the harvesting on walk paths and field borders and such?


Those types of machines are not used on small farms but on the ones out in the midwest that cover hundreds of acres. They don't have to be accurate down to just a few feet in those cases.
Eikka
3 / 5 (2) Sep 17, 2012

Neither are any of the robots shown above.


You're being intentionally stupid.

The difference between an industrial robot and a drill is that the industrial robot will measure its own position and forces and adjust its actions accordingly to complete the task without user intervention and guidance. The drill simply turns when you press the trigger.

"Automatic" includes all mechanisms that aren't powered by the users effort, such as clockwork type mechansms. "Autonomic" incudes all mechanisms that have some internal autonomy on how they operate.

A cordless drill is automatic, but not autonomous, therefore not a robot. But a coffeemaker is a robot. I'll leave it a task for you to answer why.
Eikka
not rated yet Sep 17, 2012
but I have to ask you how they overcome the inherent inaccuracy of GPS, which i believe currently has a spacial resolution of 5-20 m (15-60ft)?


It depends on how quickly you want to get a fix. A better reciever will see more satellites which improves accuracy, and oversampling the data will yield you a point cloud, which with the assumption that the spread is random will enable you to average out a finer sense of location down to inches.

The GPS is used as just one of an array of sensors. The harvester would in actuality rely more on its wheels to get fast updates on how far it has travelled, and an internal map of the field to estimate where it should be.
VendicarD
not rated yet Sep 17, 2012
Then so is a VCR, the hard drives in my PC, automobiles, copiers, fax machines, printers, etc. etc. etc.

"But a coffeemaker is a robot." - Eikka

No wonder you people think that floor vacuums are robots improving the human condition.

But seriously... Name 3.
jscroft
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 18, 2012
Not to seriously questioning the validity of the concept of using GPS for spacial placement, but I have to ask you how they overcome the inherent inaccuracy of GPS, which i believe currently has a spacial resolution of 5-20 m (15-60ft)? that's a lot. How do you avoid the harvester do the harvesting on walk paths and field borders and such?


Applications that need high precision use differential GPS. Basically, in addition to the mobile unit there's a base station located at a known position and sufficiently nearby that it experiences the same errors. When you subtract out those errors and do a little time averaging, the resulting signal can have millimeter precision.