If there weren't already plenty of people out there losing sleep over the rise of the machines, then the newest version of the BigDog robot from Boston Dynamics should have plenty more studying late night television listings and brewing coffee. An already impressive robot when it comes to managing rough terrain, the BigDog now has a new and some would say disturbing feature: a front-mounted throwing arm with some major power behind it.
By way of background, the BigDog robot is a 240 pound robot with four legs mounted underneath a framework that contains most of the robot's hardware, including the mechanisms in that throwing arm. While the arm itself doesn't do all of the throwing, thanks to the BigDog's layout it can—much in the same way that human athletes can—use the power involved in its legs, torso, and body weight to add extra power to the throw. The end result allows a robot to use one arm and chuck cinderblocks that can weigh around 30 pounds each depending on the size and composition of said cinderblock, a distance of several feet.
That joins an overall impressive array of things that this robot can do, including climbing slopes with a maximum of a 35 degree incline, maintaining balance on a variety of different types of terrain like ice and mud, and even random bits of rubble as well as a maximum running speed of around four miles per hour.
The idea of a robot capable of operating in a variety of different situations and under a variety of conditions brings up, naturally, the issue of use. It's not surprising that a robot like that would have an equal variety of potential uses. Military applications of course, top on the list. Consider one of these mounting, say, a light mortar or some kind of small arms system, or even just carrying food and ammo from one point to another. Just under three years ago, the BigDog was actually even seen in a version that came with a bull's horns, simulating a bullfight.
The sheer variety of possibilities for the BigDog robot is absolutely massive, and now that it can throw comparatively heavy objects comparatively long distances, that's just opened up more utility for an already impressive piece of hardware. Where it goes in the coming months remains to be seen, but given how far it's already gone, this should be a very exciting time to come.
Edited by Jamie Epstein