A Few Good Robots


LS3DARPA and the Marines are looking for a few good robots. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) are developing a robot that can be an asset to troops in the field during combat operations. The four-legged robot, known as Legged Squad Support System or LS3, is designed to interact with troops in a “natural way similar to a trained animal with its handle.” Think: high tech pack mule.

From press release: The LS3 program seeks to demonstrate that a highly mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot can carry 400 lbs of a squad’s equipment, follow squad members through rugged terrain and interact with troops in a natural way similar to a trained animal with its handler. The robot could also be able to maneuver at night and serve as a mobile auxiliary power source to the squad, so troops can recharge batteries for radios and handheld devices while on patrol.

The LS3 is being developed by Boston Dynamics, along with R&D folks from Bell Helicopter, AAI Corporation, Carnegie Mellon, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Woodward HRT. According to the company’s website, Boston Dynamics is an engineering company that specializes in building dynamic robots and software for human simulation. The company has developed several robots, from quadrupeds to bipeds and from exceptionally fast robots to robots that can climb walls.

The robot business is good. According to government data, over the last several years Boston Dynamics has received government contracts worth more than $123 million. In the last three years their total contracts have gone from $18.5 million in 2010 to $26.8 million in 2011 to $34.1 million in 2012. All of those contracts have been awarded by the Department of Defense, and $56.6 million have been for DARPA projects. With the growth of robot warfare, it’s no doubt the DOD will continue to look for a few good robots.

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