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Horse-like robot acquires a new skill

The American robotics firm that developed a mechanical packhorse for potential military use has developed another that looks even more horse-like.

Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics made the news last year with its Legged Squad Support System (LS3).

robot-big-dog-horseThe firm, which gets funding from US Defense sources, says the LS3 was designed with military use in mind, and is able to go anywhere that soldiers and marines go on foot.

It has developed a range of robots for assorted applications, among them the so-called BigDog.

Boston Dyamics has now added a robotic arm to BigDog, enabling the robot to hurl heavy objects while maintaining its balance, in much the same way as athletes do in field events.

However, the prancing motion of BigDog and the addition of the arm makes its look even more like an equine than the LS3 packhorse.

A Boston Dynamics spokesman said: “The goal is to use the strength of the legs and torso to help power motions of the arm.

“This sort of dynamic, whole-body approach to manipulation is used routinely by human athletes and will enhance the performance of advanced robots.”

The company describes BigDog as the alpha male of its robots.

The rough-terrain robot, about the size of a large dog or small mule, can walk, run, climb and carry heavy loads.

It is powered by an engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system.

Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a gyroscope, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine functions, battery charge and others.

In tests, BigDog can run at 4mph, climb slopes up to 35 degrees, walk across rubble, climb a muddy hiking trail, walk in snow and water, and carries a 340lb load.

BigDog set a world’s record for legged vehicles by traveling 12.8 miles without stopping or refueling.
The original LS3:

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