Fans of freaky-looking robots will already be familiar with DARPA’s quadruped Legged Squad Support System, or LS3 (although it’s also known as Big Dog by its builder, Boston Dynamics). Yesterday, two prototypes of an improved version of the LS3 were demonstrated, and DARPA has posted the video to show off what’s new.
The basic purpose of the LS3 is to serve as a sort of pack mule, carrying heavy gear for troops over rugged, varying terrain. It can follow them autonomously, and respond to verbal and visual commands.
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Among the improvements in the new version of the robot is reduced operating noise – it is approximately one-tenth as loud as the original version, allowing soldiers walking next to it to carry on a regular conversation.
According to DARPA program manager Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, “Other improvements include the ability to go from a 1- to 3-mph [1.6 to 4.8 km/h] walk and trot over rough, rocky terrain, easily transition to a 5-mph [8 km/h] jog and, eventually, a 7-mph [11.3 km/h] run over flat surfaces, showing the versatility needed to accompany dismounted units in various terrains.” As can be seen in the video below, the new robot’s ability to right itself after falling over was also showcased.
Yesterday’s demonstration was mainly for the benefit of Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar. It took place at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Virginia.