Boston Dynamics: Quadruped Rough Terrain Robot Prototype

Mar 27, 2008 by Mary Anne Simpson weblog
BigDog: Courtesy of Boston Dynamics

Boston Dynamics has released a prototype of an all-terrain robot, BigDog. The quadruped robot is equipped with a computer featuring sensors that aid its movements over harsh terrain. The robot is powered by a gasoline engine that drives the hydraulic system.

BigDog is the latest from the engineering geniuses at Boston Dynamics. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog is approximately 3.28-feet long and 2.30-feet tall and weighs 165-pounds. It is about the size of a small mule or big dog.

BigDog has a computer built-in that controls locomotion. It is equipped with sensors that aid BigDog in adapting to varying conditions. The sensors provide stereo vision, joint force, joint position and ground contact that aids in continuous movement. Most importantly, the robot is equipped with a laser gyroscope that aids in balance under extreme conditions.

BigDog is capable of maintaining its balance while packing a payload of up to 340-pounds over inhospitable terrain. BigDog can maneuver over icy parking lots, snowy hill sides and hill sides with dense foliage. Amazingly, BigDog maintains its balance when obstructed by man made obstacles.

BigDog can climb over a pile of cement blocks, gallop, sprint and jump over impediments. According to Boston Dynamics, BigDog is funded by the Defense Research Project Agency.

Boston Dynamics began as a spin off from the Massachusetts of Technology. Marc Reibert and colleagues from MIT research focused on robots that simulate the maneuvers of animals. In 1992, Boston Dynamics was launched as an engineering company that specializes in robotics and human simulation.

Over the past decade Boston Dynamics has combined forces in a myriad of applications of robotics and human simulation. For entertainment purposes Sony Corporation solicited the expertise of Boston Dynamics. In the area of security and military preparedness, the United States Marine Corp., Army and Navy have collaborated with Boston Dynamics.

Recognizing the need for all terrain robots in the field and in inhospitable environments, Boston Dynamics endeavors include a variety of robots. The RHex is an all terrain robot that can be controlled up to 600 meters by an operator. The RHex´s agility is exceptional. The six-legged robots can travel through mud, rocks, water, over railroad tracks and stone quarries and keeps its balance.

Other research and development include human simulations for maintaining security in hostile environments. Some applications might include using robots to maintain the perimeter around buildings and streets where land mines and other incendiary devices are difficult to detect with the human eye.

The application of Boston Dynamics work is infinite and may provide alternative solutions to the physical limits of mankind.

Copyright 2008 Mary Anne Simpson &
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User comments : 9

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4 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2008
Cute little thing... impressive agility, I wonder if they can keep it or even develop it father and at the same time also increase its size... will beat the hell out of the AT-AT ;)
4 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2008
That's pretty amazing how it's able to keep it's balance.
5 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2008
Nice to see this coming out of North America rather than Japan...there is hope for us yet.
Great job!
1 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2008
I got to meet the gentleman behind this project and I can only say i was very impressed
2.7 / 5 (3) Mar 27, 2008
1. Can you ride it?
2. They gotta do something about the noise.
3. Is it *really* better than a wheeled vehicle?
Except for jumping, a similar sized wheeled
vehicle can do what is shown in the movie.
4. What is the fuel consumption?
3.3 / 5 (4) Mar 27, 2008
It needs a few more tweaks before it can take over the world, but its scary already. Nice work
1 / 5 (1) Mar 27, 2008
ive been watching video of this thing for a while.
2 main questions for military use.
1) how loudly does it operate (stealth purposes)
2) how is it guided...can it be programmed to follow someone automatically like a dog?

finally--how long/far can it go on a gallone of fuel. ?
4.5 / 5 (2) Mar 27, 2008
The limitation of a wheeled vehicle is its ground clearance i.e. height of the axle from the ground. Clearly this beast has a high ground clearance. However like a mule it can can be blocked by a simple fence. But a dog/man can jump or climb a fence. If they can improve its jump height that would help. Even so it is a huge advance.
Anybody else find there is something sinister or menacing about how it moves.
To overcome the fence limitation it could carry explosives, drop at fence, stand back, detonate, then walk thru hole.
Now if they can add some arms to the beast then it can climb and you have a great solution.
Another option is to upsize it to AT-AT size, then it just steps or hops over obstacles e.g. houses!
I imagine that this has perfect applications to replace horse/mules e.g. mining, walk a known supply route etc.
not rated yet Mar 30, 2008
It's got a pretty impressive stamina.
I wonder if it is self-programed.
Does it just move around with 340lbs or does it have a specific purpose.

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