Over the years, robotics company Boston Dynamics has developed a number of robots that take inspiration from nature such as the Cheetah, PETMAN and Rise. Among the most famous of their designs is BigDog, a rough-terrain robot that can walk, run, climb and carry heavy loads. Recently Boston Dynamics equipped the heavy-duty machine with a power arm that is powerful enough to lift and toss a heavy cinder block.
The BigDog project, which is funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the Tactical Technology Office at DARPA, hit a bump in the road recently when it was superseded by the larger LS3. Boston Dynamics hopes that the inclusion of a super strong arm could lend the robot more real-world applications in transporting supplies for troops.
Despite the arm’s power, BigDog’s flexible design means that it is able to stay upright. Powered by an engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system, BigDog is able to absorb shock and balance shifting loads between its four legs. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule; about 3 feet long, 2.5 feet tall and weighs 240 lbs. The robot’s control system keeps it balanced, allows it to navigate, and regulates its movement as conditions vary.
The 240 lb robot’s locomotion sensors include LIDAR, a stereo vision system, and gyroscopes that monitor joint position, joint force, ground contact, and ground load. The cider block test is just the latest in a series that BigDog has undertaken. Previously it has run at 4 mph, climbed slopes up to 35 degrees, walked across rubble, climbed a muddy hiking trail, traversed snow and water, and carried a 340 lb load. It has also set a world record for legged vehicles by traveling 12.8 miles without stopping or refueling.
Boston Dynamics‘ ultimate goal is to develop a robot that can go anywhere people and animals can go. Perhaps with two arms, BigDog could be even more use on the battlefield, lifting and carrying wounded soldiers to safety.