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DARPA's AlphaDog learns new tricks

Posting in Government

DARPA's prototype robot AlphaDog has received an upgrade -- looking less like a puppy and more like a pack mule.

The Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) four-legged project is a joint venture between the agency and Boston Dynamics. After years in development, the AlphaDog LS3 (Legged Squad Support System) reached the stage of being able to climb loose objects, recover and right itself if knocked over, and understand voice commands -- all with up to 100 pounds on its back.

Now, the robot dog is able to follow squad members through jogging, running or a trot at up to 7mph, depending on the terrain. It uses sensors and GPS technology to follow its squad mates.

The teams hope that in the future, the LS3 will be able to carry a full squad's gear -- approximately 400 pounds -- over a distance of 20 miles. In addition, the previous issue of an extremely loud motor has been eradicated, so the robot no longer would no longer have a 'shoot me' sign tattooed on its metal forehead in future combat scenarios.

"We've refined the LS3 platform and have begun field testing against requirements of the Marine Corps," said Army Lt. Col. Joe Hitt, DARPA program manager. "The vision for LS3 is to combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal."

Until now, AlphaDog has been controlled with a remote, or has trotted down prescribed paths. If it passes future stress-tests with the Marines, it may end up on the battlefield to lessen the weight on the shoulders of infantry.

— By on September 12, 2012, 3:24 AM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure