AlphaDog Carries Heavy Objects, Is Easier to Train Than a Real Dog

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Good dog. [Photo: Boston Dynamics]
While everyone loves cuddly pets, wouldn't it be awesome if you could train them to do more than respond to their names, sit, and beg? A robotic creation by Boston Dynamics aims to be the sturdy and loyal companion to any serviceman who has to go long distances on foot.

The four-legged bot, named AlphaDog, was designed to carry heavy military objects and be able to walk on any terrain that soldiers and marines may have to endure without vehicles. The best part? The machine does not need a driver, because it can either follow a particular person with its computer vision, or use its GPS to navigate to a location by itself.

AlphaDog is still in the prototype testing phase, so it doesn't look quite like the concept drawing above just yet. However, the prototype can carry up to 400 pounds across 20 miles of terrain before needing to be refueled. The bot does take its time reaching its destination--24 hours to carry 180 kilograms of kit over that distance.

AlphaDog, which also goes by the name Legged Squad Support Systems (LS3), is being funded by DARPA and the U.S. Marine Corps, and it should be completed for its first proper walk sometime next year. While AlphaDog is slightly daunting to look at, this could be a really beneficial tool for various forces that need to carry objects without the help of large vehicles.

Check out one of the first tester videos of the big dog carrying 400-pound weights over tester obstacles:

[Boston Dynamics via IEEE Spectrum]

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