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Cave Canem: the Robot Dawg for MOUT

by Ward Carroll on September 9, 2008

robot-dog.jpg

I like dogs. Always have. A house without a pet is not a home? Bullshit. A house without a dog is not a home. Now they’re building dogs we’ll eventually take into places like the Hindu Kush, possibly instead of a humvee, certainly in the place of a donkey, backbreaking ruck or indentured servant. It’s wicked cool. Me and Slim have watched the video a dozen times since our buddy Mark the Ninja sent us an e-mail about it from the depths of his DC hidey-hole.

Honestly, this thing is more like a techie’s metal donkey than a dog. Nobody north of Tijuana wants a donkey curled up in their bed or bringing them the paper though, which I’m confident is why they named it what they did.

Billed as “the most advanced quadruped robot on Earth” and funded by DARPA, Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog is just one of several robots under development. It walks, runs, climbs rough terrain, carries more weight than an 0341 and won’t piss on the floor. Cyberfido runs on a gasoline engine that “drives a hydraulic actuation system”, which I’m guessing is a little more complicated than a self-propelled pull-start mower (at least a little bit). It walks a little bit like an Imperial ATAT and sounds like a pissed off remote control airplane, but the potential for this thing is awesome.

According to the Boston Dynamics website, “BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animals, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.

Here’s a video:

BigDog has an on-board computer that controls locomotion, servos the legs and handles a wide variety of sensors. BigDogs control system manages the dynamics of its behavior to keep it balanced, steer, navigate, and regulate energetics as conditions vary. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a laser gyroscope, and a stereo vision system. Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine temperature, rpm, battery charge and others.“

I don’t know as of this writing whether BigDog is a two-stroke or four-stroke engine, whether it used dilithium crystals or how many gigs of memory it has. Presumably BigDog’s processing suite is duotronic rather than positronic. Unconfirmed rumors allege that Boston Dynamics pulled all Windows Vista operating systems from the prototype BigDogs after they suffered repetitive epileptic fits during task performance reviews.

BigDog can carry about 20 pounds and reach speeds up to 4 mph (which is certainly fast enough to keep up with some poor bastard of an 11C trying to climb the Ghilzai plateau, and certainly faster than you can drive through traffic in Tikrit), climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, and carries a 340 lb load. BigDog is part of a program intended to create robots with “rough terrain mobility that can take them anywhere on Earth that people can go.” Marc Raibert, the founder of Boston Dynamics, says of BigDog’s locomotion, “Legs can go places that wheels and tracks can’t go, and there are lots of those places on Earth.”

From what’s been accomplished so far, it seems like they’re well on their way to reaching this goal. I’m sure further testing remains. Certainly I’d have questions for such a machine once it went operational. How would it do in the heat and grit of the Dasht-e Kavir? Could it ford the Khash-rud River with the grunts if they had to wade across? Could a version be built to withstand small arms fire as it humped a load of AT-4s across the street to resupply the grunts clearing houses?

The possible uses for such a machine are by no means bound by military application, of course. Think of them working with the Forestry Service fighting wildfires, or carrying life saving equipment for search and rescue teams.

I think it would be funny to have BigDog walk the dog so I don’t have to, but then again I’m pretty lazy. I back my damn car down the driveway to check the mail and I never run unless someone is chasing me.

There’s a lot more about BigDog and his cousins on the web, if you’re interested. BigDog Beta even has a MySpace page. The official Boston Dynamics website is right here.

WARNING: Do not go to RedTube and type in BigDog, you’ll be grossed out.

That’s it for now. Thanks again to Mark the Ninja.
Swingin’ Richard

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Henry Kenyon September 9, 2008 at 9:10 am

Nice article. Not to toot my own horn, but here’s a link to a story I wrote about Big Dog back in 2006. Cheers.
http://www.afcea.org/signal/articles/templates/Signal_Article_Template.asp?articleid=166&zoneid=40

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Henry Kenyon September 9, 2008 at 9:16 am
adw September 9, 2008 at 10:55 am

Okay, so quieter, 300lb load, and 12 hours endurance at foot patrol pace, and we have deal.
Where exactly are we now?
0 load, 12 minutes endurance, half pace?
Still, it's a start.

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Foreign.Boy September 9, 2008 at 10:12 am

Its cool.. pretty loud though :S.
It’ll be neat to see some alternative power supplies in it that aren’t as loud.

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Camp September 9, 2008 at 10:26 am

Just another dirty-rotten-leg! :)
Now if they could just couple, about ten of these ‘puppies’, into linear segments. You could have a killer Centipede… climbing over houses, und stuff.

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Ontos September 9, 2008 at 10:27 am

Great concept, and as an old 0311 I would have loved something to do my humping for me.
However, after 5 minutes of that noise, I could see it drawing fire by red and blue forces alike just trying to shit the thing up!
I’m assuming that the power source isn’t ready for prime time yet.

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FONZIE September 9, 2008 at 10:54 am

Does it carry a 20lb load or a 340lb load? Which is it?
Also, we should send this thing in before the troops. Hajji would crap his pants seeing this H.R. Giger inspired menace loping towards him :)

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Vitor September 9, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Really resembles the Geckos from Metal Gear Solid 4.

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grigori September 9, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Here’s a video of a much cooler Beta version of the BigDog robot.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXJZVZFRFJc
It seems more natural, and well, more human.

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Bruce September 9, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Damn, next time put a [NSFW] notice by something like that RedTube reference – I’d never heard of the site, so I went to check it out (from my work computer), intending to avoid any ‘BigDog’ search, and not realizing that the whole site itself is something better off being left out of my browser cache.

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stephen russell September 9, 2008 at 9:36 pm

Ideal for:
Mtn Search & Rescue
MedEvac
Re supply
Recon
Lay landlines?
Carry weapons to augment troops.
Carry mines?
Logistics.
Otherwise thats it.
Need improved models for Iraq & Philppines alone.
Or Alaska testing.

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anon September 9, 2008 at 10:38 pm

Boston Dynamics surely has neat robots and has demonstrated their practicality.
A house without a pet (not necessarily a dog) is indeed not a home. Those who restrict it to dogs bear the burden of proof.
Swingin’ Richard, stop the unprofessional language lest you are no better than, as you say, “bullshit”. You should know better how to write an article professionally!

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Kent September 10, 2008 at 3:06 am

This is one of the few new technologies that I think are completely pointless.
Anyone else think that maybe a donkey or a horse would work better?

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Vstress September 10, 2008 at 3:13 am

Someone is becoming really good at selling junk to the government…
doesn’t this all remind people of what the Soviets did… anything that has any possible military purpose gets funding… anything else suffers.
This is just a stupid device, I don’t even want to start explaining why… just too many reasons against and very very few that are for.

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Dr. Curiosity September 10, 2008 at 6:04 am

It still sounds like a dog powered by the wrath of angry bees, though.

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liza September 10, 2008 at 6:07 am

Nice product of advanced technology! The walk is smooth, though the sound annoys me.

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liza September 10, 2008 at 6:09 am

Nice product of advanced technology! The walk is smooth, though the sound annoys me.

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Emastro September 10, 2008 at 9:13 am

“This is one of the few new technologies that I think are completely pointless.
Anyone else think that maybe a donkey or a horse would work better? ”
Absolutely! I guess the donkey/mule (I think the mule works best) lobby doesn’t write the big checks to congressmen.
What’s another biliion?!

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tontochoc September 12, 2008 at 3:17 am

No I see their cunning plan – we can develop a mechanical mule (now where have I heard that before) that is good for the battery manufacturers and is so loud it betrays your presence. I believe a donkey or mule is better for many reasons: no noise, cheaper to purchase, easily replaced and if you get stuck for food you can always eat it! Donkey tastes like crap by the way.

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Richard Kilgore September 15, 2008 at 6:32 pm

I thought it was definitely intersting enough to warrant reading, which is why I posted it in the first place. Damned thing’s pretty loud, but amazing that they’ve done as much as they have. I can definitely see the use of it, but I think the military in general needs to be wary of going so “Technocentric”. There’s still tendency to think higher tech will replace sufficient and sufficiently trained boots on the ground. That’s the bottom line.
It’s like using sensors instead of using enough patrols inside and outside the wire. They should be force multipliers, not force replacements.
But what the hell do I know, I’m just an action figure.
http://www.breachbangclear.com
http://www.myspace.com/thetacticaloperator
http://www.swingingdicksplace.com

Reply

Richard Kilgore September 15, 2008 at 6:34 pm

I thought it was definitely intersting enough to warrant reading, which is why I posted it in the first place. Damned thing’s pretty loud, but amazing that they’ve done as much as they have. I can definitely see the use of it, but I think the military in general needs to be wary of going so “Technocentric”. There’s still tendency to think higher tech will replace sufficient and sufficiently trained boots on the ground. That’s the bottom line.
It’s like using sensors instead of using enough patrols inside and outside the wire. They should be force multipliers, not force replacements.
But what the hell do I know, I’m just an action figure.
http://www.breachbangclear.com
http://www.myspace.com/thetacticaloperator
http://www.swingingdicksplace.com

Reply

RgrLindy September 29, 2008 at 8:18 am

Too noisy, but would help Soldiers tremendously, especially in areas like Afghanistan. If you could eliminate the noise, you may have a great product. A mule or horse can be spooked by a snake or something rustling in the bushes, but this weird looking contraption would just keep on walking. I think it’s amazing, but the noise would certainly give away your location and put you in jeopardy. Needs a lot of “tweaking.” Another aspect is, if our troops walk into a hot area, they don’t have to try and shed a lot of weight getting into position.

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shriner September 29, 2008 at 9:27 am

Great how soon will bigdog be a gundog with a 5.56 bite? skynet’s first pet!

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B. Turnipseed September 29, 2008 at 10:47 am

Let’s think about something, about ‘Hi Tech’ in the field.
1. Hi tech and/or effective equipment will be targeted for capture or idealogical equalization and sent to an extranational location for reverse engineering, maybe even with the plans. Then we will be facing our own technology in the fields and the street.
I would rather face Electro-Dog with a bomb and a foreign accent than energy weapons or bullets from a space rifle that are invisible until they
arrive at their destination.
A quasi, predetermined line of field deployed technology must be determined.

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jphn duncan September 29, 2008 at 1:00 pm

1.what the hell is the Chinese web sites doing on this forum? Do you think it is their calling card saying, We are aware of what you are doing, and are making it too !!!.
2. This is a grunts godsend and nightmare. Carrys the weight, and tells the enemy where you are at. Like a slow moving traser round. Only sent by someone else with your co-ordinats in it program. Nothing will stop it until it shows the enemy where you are.

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Mike October 2, 2008 at 4:37 am

I can see it now …… Pa Deer season… dress it up as a 10 pt buck … Ha Ha Ha

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i'm not giving my name to a machine October 5, 2008 at 7:15 am

I got sad when the guy kicked it

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roland November 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Probably in the future major tanks, ships , fighter jets, boats, and soldiers will be unmanned and robotic that will have its own mind and programmable where it will do its mission for the good of mankind.

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