DARPA’s robotic “dog” getting $10 million makeover

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

DARPA BigDog trots
I don’t know why they call this the BigDog, because he looks more like a horse. Either way, in this picture, BigDog looks ready to play!

Imagine you’re a soldier trying to sneak across enemy lines when suddenly, a large dog-shaped machine comes clanking from behind carrying tons of gear. The squeaking gives your location away, and a battle erupts! Well, DARPA’s helpful equipment-carrying robot, “BigDog,” is just a bit too noisy. That’s why they’ve teamed up with Boston Dynamics to upgrade the pack bot with a $10 million makeover to quiet him down.

BigDog is designed to carry heavy packs for fighting troopers who have to haul around a ton of equipment. Sure, some of it needs to be ready to pick up at a moment’s notice, like weapons, ammunition, and armor. However, the rest of the weight comes from stuff as silly as socks, underwear, and hygiene kits that aren’t exactly necessary to win a heated battle. That’s where BigDog really comes in handy.

He can carry up to 400 pounds of heavy weight, which would otherwise burden those poor exhausted soldiers. Don’t expect him to trail behind the marines, though. The robot can walk up to 8 miles an hour, which is fast enough to keep pace with the fittest marching humans – even the leader all the way at the front of the group! That’ll certainly make it easier for him to obey the commander’s voice. Wow, this robo dog sounds so advanced already, so what the heck does he need a $10 million makeover for?

Well, DARPA wants to make BigDog more bullet-resistant and super quiet, so he won’t give away the army’s position. They’re also hoping to buff him up so he can carry heavier payloads. When the marines test the machine sometime this November, I sure hope the robot isn’t distracted by a stray squirrel running about!

Images and video courtesy of DARPA.