Spot, the 160-pound (72.5 kilograms) robotic dog that was first introduced in February, is now being tested alongside the United States Marine Corps (USMC).
The training and testing takes place at the United States Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) located near Triangle, Virginia – which is an organisation found in 1995 that works on investigating new technologies that have the potential to work alongside combat units. It also determines how future operations are handled.
The quadruped robot prototype called Spot is powered by electricity and runs on a hydraulic drive system. Boston Dynamics, an engineering and robotics design company owned by Google X, designed and built Spot.
The company is also renowned for a previous quadruped robot called BigDog that was designed for the U.S. military. Spot’s predecessor BigDog weighed 240 pounds (almost 109 kilograms). LS3 – a rough-terrain robot – is another prototype of Boston Dynamics. To build LS3, Boston Dynamics gathered scientists and engineers from Boston Dynamics, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AAI Corporation, Carnegie Mellon, Woodward HRT, and Bell Helicopter.
US Marine Capt. James Pineiro, the branch head for Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, said that the dexterity of Spot the robotic dog was tested in the woods, hills, and urban areas of Virginia. Spot was also sent into several buildings before the Marines entered, to inspect possible threats.
Ben Swilling, a robotic specialist with the Boston Dynamics Company, said that Spot could be used in the future for load carriage operations, scouting exercises, mapping enemy territory, and search and rescue missions.
The marines are able to control Spot using radio signals which are navigated by a device that looks a lot like a video game controller. The signals are sent form a laptop. According to Pineiro, the robot is so easy to operate that even a four-year-old could do it.
Pineiro believes that robots will reduce dangers for marines, which is why the military invests so much in research of development for robotics. Even if robots can be shot, they cannot die, which is why they can be sent into a danger zone so that no one gets hurt, Swilling said.
Researchers in Italy and Switzerland are also working on developing algorithms to enable robot dogs to go through disaster zones that are too dangerous for humans. HyQ is a prototype of that sort, and which is currently under development. According to one researcher, this robot can withstand powerful impacts.
Image Source: cbsistatic