Sept. 11 - U.S. robotics company Boston Dynamics has been giving its latest mechanical pack mule a run around Fort Myer in Virginia, where Marine Corps commanders are assessing its viability as a 21st Century support robot. Rob Muir reports.
For "Big Dog" - officially known as the Legged Squadron Support System - this was the latest in a series of trials by the US MarineCorp to see if a robotic pack mule could successfully be integrated with soldiers and marines in the field. Its developers say Big Dog's future looks bright. The robot has been designed by Massachusetts company Boston Dynamics, to follow soldiers and marines on foot over a variety of terrains. It can carry up to 400 lbs of equipment over 20 miles without refuelling. It can either follow a leader using computer vision or travel to designated locations using GPS and other sensors. Big Dog might also serve as a mobile auxiliary power source to the squad, allowing soldiers to recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol. The robot will be refined and regularly tested over two years. It will eventually be embedded with marines conducting exercises in the field. By that time, Big Dog's developers say their beast should be able to follow verbal commands and if it frightens the enemy into submission as well, that's an added bonus.