Big Dog learns to sit, roll over, heel

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14 Responses:

  1. Jason Scott says:

    The view of that new terrifying matrix of sensors and scanners in the "head" really add a layer of Miyazaki to the whole proceedings.

  2. Dan L says:

    The fact that it is gas powered is truly unsettling. I do not have the upper hand against this entity, and it is larger and in certain ways stronger than I am. There's a reason animals of this nature were wiped out by humans long ago.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      I thought they were wiped out because they were tasty. (Or, at the very least, more tasty than dying of starvation.)

      • nooj says:

        No, no. Just being tasty wasn't enough. You don't get pictures like this for food supply. We hadn't centralized food like that yet. No, we did it for the skins.

        To wax philosophic for a moment,

        The era of wiping out the buffalo in America (ie, the Industrial Revolution) was an era of man versus nature, consonant with the clearcutting of the Allegheny forests in WV, massive railroad expansion, and a general belief that this (the 1880's) was the best time to be alive. That even though we were small, we could build machines to overcome these huge challenges. Could we really cut down a 20' diameter tree? Could we really cross mountains without a single (human) death?

        Most importantly was the challenge of scalability. Could we really connect East and West with a single rail line? Could we really kill a million bison? Most people didn't know what a million was. Could we really log 10M acres of virgin forest? There were huge groves of 300' tall trees spaced barely 25' apart! And how would we get all that to market? The logistics of such tasks was more than we had ever dreamed of, and led directly to the assembly line.

        Of course, there was also greed and all the money to be made selling off natural resources. That was a big motivator.

        But back to the question, North America has not had starvation issues in recorded history. It was one of our selling points.

  3. Jake Nelson says:

    Ugh, $Xk machine, and you can't spend a little on stabilizing that camera? Or training the cameraman not to lurch about liuke a drunk?

    As an ex-cameraman, I weep for my former profession.

    • nooj says:

      Finally, someone! If you feel the best way to add value to your subject is to make the background wobble, your subject is overrated.

  4. Aidan says:

    Looks like a bloated cow. A creepy electronic killer bloated cow.

  5. nooj says:

    As a controls guy, I'm pleasantly surprised by the way they did the gait and leg design. Complicated gaits are hard; but the trot here is quite simple, stable, and speeds up well. Cockroaches, the fastest and probably most efficient runners, use something like a three-legged trot. I'm sure the designers have tried to make it cantor or gallop; I bet it didn't work out. That said, notice that the BigDog didn't turn any corners in the video. Hard to yaw in a trot. (Staggering around, walking sideways, or slipping and accidentally turning doesn't count. I'm talking a premeditated yaw in place or moving forward.)

    The leg design is also interesting, and obviously intended for rough terrain and steep uphills. (But not so much for downhills. I guess that's not a big deal? I dunno, I've never studied war.) I'd be interested to see how much energy those actuators require. Looks like they took out a few joints from the design of a few years ago. (We assume they were unnecessary and took too much energy or maintenance.)

    Obviously the designers can make it go fast and slow and follow a team and look at stuff and take simple commands from an attendant standing nearby (or wirelessly). Maybe someone pushing buttons on a presentation remote or waving a Wii or something. The real test is whether it can move locations (from one cover to another) while under fire. That is, zig-zag randomly, vary its speed randomly, and yet still maintain stability and enough forward progress to get to the new location in one piece. Until then, it's just another piece of equipment that a bunch of guys who aren't being shot at can use to carry stuff (like water and gauss rifles).

    I'd like to see what the dreams are for this. (We could probably figure it out with a little imagination.) That is to say, non-meat legs don't often make it into battle. So what are they thinking of when they look at it? From the video, its capabilities are essentially that of a lighter, quieter killdozer.

    In fact, allow me to be the first to say "four legged killdozer"!

    • phuzz says:

      There is a slight turn onto a track around the 0:40 mark. Also, afaik they are intended as pack 'animals'. Personally I think they could also be used to scare the bejesus out of the enemy as well.

    • I think the intent for at least the first couple generations of these is purely to carry supplies. A modern US (or other industrialized nation's) infantryman carries a huge amount of weight in gear, because it's considered unacceptable for a soldier to die because he didn't have the right equipment with him. Figure Big Dog gets to carry the radio, water jugs, antitank rockets, first aid kits, extra magazines, etc. So I don't think they care whether it can sprint from cover to cover; any fire it draws is revealing an enemy's position without endangering a meatsoldier.

      Of course, sticking a gyrostabilized, WiFi-controlled, light machine gun/camera platform on its back wouldn't be too difficult...

      • nooj says:

        or, even better, an as-yet unknown single piece of equipment that is too heavy for one person. like a drone command center. or a really big battery. or part of a medical center. (currently, a forward surgical team consists of twenty people in six humvees.)

        seeing as how it's been in development for years, i'm sure the funders are confident they can find a use for it. personally, i don't think mechanical legs will ever beat a bulldozer track in a fair fight. but i like the R&D that will come out of it for the legs alone. i'm a big believer in military research benefitting civilians.

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