Robotics

BigDog grabs, lifts, and throws cinder blocks with its new arm

BigDog grabs, lifts, and throw...
Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot BigDog grabs a cinder block from the floor using its new arm attachment
Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot BigDog grabs a cinder block from the floor using its new arm attachment
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Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot BigDog grabs a cinder block from the floor using its new arm attachment
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Boston Dynamics' quadruped robot BigDog grabs a cinder block from the floor using its new arm attachment
BigDog winds up to throw the cinder block
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BigDog winds up to throw the cinder block
Using the forces of its entire body, BigDog throws the cinder block over its shoulder - the block lands several feet away
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Using the forces of its entire body, BigDog throws the cinder block over its shoulder - the block lands several feet away
A different view of the throw
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A different view of the throw
The cinder block lands several feet away from the robot's position
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The cinder block lands several feet away from the robot's position

Boston Dynamics' BigDog may have already been replaced by the beefier LS3, but that doesn't mean it's totally obsolete. Today the company unveiled a version of the quadruped equipped with an arm where a head (or tail) would go. As can be seen in the following video, it's powerful enough to lift and toss a heavy cinder block.

Key to this work, funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, is that BigDog uses the dynamic forces of its whole body to help it throw the cinder block. It begins by taking several steps to the side before quickly accelerating as it swings its arm, temporarily launching itself into the air in the process. This approach is similar to the way an athlete winds up before throwing a discus, for example, and greatly enhances the robot's throwing power. Since few robots are as capable as BigDog when it comes to balance, it's an excellent platform to test these sorts of strenuous actions.

It's somewhat puzzling that BigDog's new configuration doesn't include two arms, which is a form factor that has been explored by researchers in the past. Back in the early 1990s, the Japanese government unveiled a nuclear plant inspection robot with a humanoid upper-body that walked on four legs. The idea was to combine the stability of a four-legged robot with the manipulation capabilities of a human. More recently, a team at the Italian Institute of Technology has shown plans that would add a pair of arms to their quadruped HyQ, presumably for the same reasons.

Dynamic Robot Manipulation

Perhaps with an arm or two BigDog – which has cost tens of millions to develop so far – could still help soldiers do some heavy lifting while its descendant is transporting gear out in the field. If a new version of BigDog had two arms to work with, it could presumably lift even heavier objects.

Source: Boston Dynamics via YouTube

13 comments
joeblake
Remember the good old days when we threw things for Fido to fetch? Since Fido watched "Terminator" it's a case of "Here puny human, fetch this ... or it's hasta la vista baby".
Dan Vasii
Very impressive - but the real problem isn't neither the software, nor the mechanics of the process - is the cables hanging from above. Until a reliable powersource will not be attached to such a robot, it will remain at lab curiosity stage.
Chef Borjan
@Dan Clearly you haven't looked at Big Dog at all except what you saw in this video, and yet made this big sweeping statements. Its more than capable of operating beyond a 'lab curiosity'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww
Suman M Subramanian
Since article started with the statement that BigDog has been replaced by LS3, I'm surprised the author resisted the temptation to ask, "Who says you can't teach an old Dog new tricks?" :)
Roger Chan
the elephant now has an android counter part. love it!
Stradric
I can't even imagine where Big Dog will be in 30 years. Probably on Mars.
Jay Lloyd
Oh great... now after it chases you, it can catch you... and throw you.
ash
@ Chef Borjan having watched the video, i can just imagine that device assisting soldiers in the field - as long as their opponents are all deaf
John Ebbinghaus
Airport baggage handling, anyone?
Steven Littlejohn
Teach it how to Lay a cinder block wall ,and then you will have something. What a waste of brainpower...to build things simply to destroy...teach it to Create something !