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It looks like something out of Star Wars, but the Ewoks have nothing to worry about. The futuristic LS3, or Legged Squad Support System, is one of the good guys.
Able to walk through all sorts of extreme landscapes, carrying up to 400 pounds of gear, this mechanical pack mule will one day be available to Marines on the march.
“This could be as ubiquitous as a Jeep, especially in rugged terrains such as Afghanistan where wheeled vehicles have difficulty,” says Dr. Robert Mandelbaum, program director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Today’s soldiers may carry more than 50 pounds of gear each, and that can take a toll. Getting the LS3 to take on that burden is expected to improve soldier effectiveness.
The LS3, created at Boston Dynamics, started life as a robot known as Big Dog because scientists based its leg movements on the physiology of man’s best friend. Videos available on YouTube show Big Dog in action.
The machine walks through woods and parking lots, over a path of rocks and up sandy hills, through snow and ice. A man gives it a good hard kick, trying to knock it down, and it stumbles a bit but stays upright.
Boston Dynamics worked on Big Dog for five years, and the results as seen on video are impressive. But all of it is just groundwork.
“We’ve had several different versions of Big Dog, but it is not a product; it’s a research machine that led us to LS3,” says Marc Raibert, head of Boston Dynamics. “LS3 is Big Dog on steroids.”