Boston Dynamics, with funding fromn DARPA, has built a robot called BigDog that is able to travel 12.8 miles without stopping or refueling, can run at 4 mph, climb 35-degree slopes, carry 340 pounds, and can walk through snow and water and mud, to cover the more-than-half of places on earth that are impossible to travel by wheeled vehicles.
Boston Dynamics has released a new video in which BigDog, a terrifying robotic dog with a giant clamp for its head, picks up a cinderblock and hurls it across the room. It might have been fine if it were standing still, or cuter, but as it is, BigDog has wires coming out of its back, metal feet that stamp in some sort of satanic rhythm while it adjusts its stance, and when it throws the block, it even adjusts for the torque on its body.
It's not quite on Uncanny Valley level, but its movements look life-like –– joints bending in the right directions –– and the way it reaches for the block, almost cautiously, before its metallic clamp head seizes it, is the stuff of nightmares. BigDog is awesome.
The robot is about the size of a small mule or a large dog, standing at two-and-a-half feet tall, three feet long and weighing in at 240 lb. Its legs have shock absorbers, which allow it to recycle energy from one step to another, says Boston Dynamics, and its computer keeps it balanced, helps it navigate and handles its sensors. The physical sensors keep track of joints, ground contact, ground load, a gyroscope and LIDAR (a remote sensing technology that can measure the distance to a subject) and internal sensors monitor hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine function and battery charge, among other factors.
BigDog is designed to serve in the military. Its ability to pick things up would be useful for soldiers who may need help carrying heavy loads over rough terrain. And maybe its creepiness may even become an endearing quality for the men, women and robots it will serve alongside.