AlphaDog Robot Passes Outdoor Trial, Will Learn to Sit and Stay Next

[Photo: Boston Dynamics]
Back in October, we reported on an intriguing robotic project by DARPA and Boston Dynamics to help troops carry heavy items over rough terrain. At that point, the LS3/AlphaDog project was in the early stages of development, and the loyal robotic companion wasn't even allowed outside. Until now.

DARPA finally let the puppy go out and play by taking it outside for testing. Even when saddled up with 100 pounds of gear, AlphaDog was able to run up and down hills, and navigate around obstacles such as trees, humans, and rocks with little difficulty. Most significantly though, it proved its ability to follow a particular member of a group around without having to be controlled remotely.

In addition, LS3 (Legged Squad Support Systems) is also no longer a skeleton--it's starting to look a little more like the concept image above.

Now that LS3 passed its outdoor tests, DARPA will now work on the robotic load-bearer's ability to respond to voice commands--for instance "sit", "stop" and "come here"--and test its true strength. After all, DARPA has yet to fully test AlphaDog's capacity (one of the design goals for AlphaDog is for it to carry 400 pounds for a full 24 hours without needed a recharge).

Marine and Army troops can expect to see this beast in field-testing by the summer. It will be interesting to see the results of future trials, especially seeing how AlphaDog is programmed to act like an actual (trained) canine. Check out the video below to see it in action:

[DARPA via IEEE Spectrum]

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