Sunday, October 7, 2012


I find any research involving robots awesome. It brings me a step closer to having that robot army I always wanted (the one in my basement doesn’t count, as it’s made of Legos). Fortunately, Boston Dynamics, with the help of DARPA (Department of Awesome Robot Powered Armies, if memory serves), is building robots out of sturdier components than Legos (and you don’t have to move them or make sound-effects yourself).

Their largest walking robot is the LS3, (Legged Squad Support System). It’s designed to carry equipment over terrain that wheeled or treaded vehicles can’t handle. It’s a larger version of their BigDog robot, which can run up to 4 miles per hour and climb 35 degree slopes, which gives it capabilities similar to mine if I’m feeling motivated. Unlike me, it can also go 12 miles without stopping and carry 340 pounds. The larger LS3 will be capable of going 20 miles, and carrying 400 pounds. Based on the description, I immediately thought miniature AT-AT (All Terrain Assault Transport), but without the turbo-lasers (yet).

     The LS3 isn’t quite as badass (and has no lasers at all, let alone turbo-lasers), but it does have some advantages. Because of the lower ground clearance, it would be impossible to fly a snow-speeder through the legs of the LS3. Also, it exists in reality.

     Boston Dynamics’ other recent creation is the Cheetah, which holds the speed record for a legged robot, and recently surpassed the speed record for bipedal legged mammals (Usain Bolt’s top speed of 27.8 mph). Admittedly, it uses four legs, which is basically cheating (I just saved you from a really terrible pun. Be grateful). The Cheetah’s record of 28.3 mph is still pretty far behind actual cheetahs, which have been clocked at 75 mph. Though it lacks the speed of an actual cheetah, the Cheetah does run in the same manner, flexing its back with each step.

Like any fan of 1980’s Japanese cartoons that were ripped off and recombined into loosely related English language versions, when someone says robot cheetah, I think Voltron (which Apple auto-corrects to volition).


     So, yeah, the Cheetah would look a whole lot cooler with a head (and four other Cheetahs of different colors that could combine with it to form a giant humanoid robot with a sword). It would also be improved by not being powered by an external hydraulic pump and requiring a boom-like device to keep it in the middle of the treadmill. Fortunately, they’re still working on it and should have these problems remedied in the near future.

     While Boston Dynamics may be several years from providing me with the robot army I require, their legged robots are still steps in the right direction (sorry, I couldn’t help it).