U.S. troops who carry as much as 100 pounds of gear could soon get a robotic mule capable of shouldering their burdens in the toughest terrain. Such a robot recently showed how it can follow a person and navigate around trees and rocks while climbing a hill in its first outdoor test — but it might someday follow spoken commands like a huge, obedient dog.
The four-legged, headless "LS3" robot evolved as the quieter, faster and tougher version of Boston Dynamics' "BigDog" robot funded by the U.S. military's DARPA research arm. Upcoming trials will test the robot's ability to carry 400 pounds on a tough 20-mile trek without any refueling for 24 hours.
"If successful, this could provide real value to a squad while addressing the military’s concern for unburdening troops," said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA). "LS3 seeks to have the responsiveness of a trained animal and the carrying capacity of a mule."
Added "hearing" technology could even allow human squad members to issue spoken commands such as "stop," "sit" or "come here."