Written by admin on Tuesday, December 13th, 2011
It’s rare that a military gadget captures the attention of the internet, but it has been known to happen. Big Dog is one such example. A short video of Big Dog went viral on YouTube, gathering over 12 million views.
The popularity of the video stems from a variety of factors, such as the inherent humor of it stumbling on ice, its bizarre mechanical movements, and the effect of the uncanny valley.
Despite the popularity of Big Dog on the internet, this device represents an important breakthrough in technology for the military.
Big Dog is designed to replicate a feat that many humans take for granted: walking. Walking is second nature to us, but it is extremely difficult to replicate in robotics. Engineers at Boston Dynamics have developed Big Dog to test the potential usefulness and functionality of walking robots.
Similar to the XO2 exoskeleton, the primary functionality of the Big Dog lies in its ability to haul cargo without much expenditure of manpower. Whenever troops have a need to carry heavy equipment through extremely rough terrain, the only options available are to transport the cargo by air or across the backs of soldiers. Each of these options has its downside, as air lifting cargo is noisy and conspicuous, while moving it manually is exhausting.
The eventual purpose of Big Dog is to haul cargo through forests, up steep mountains, across rocky terrain, through sand, or over lakes. Essentially, wherever a person can go, Big Dog can go. As such, Big Dog could act as a sort of extra robotic member of a group of soldiers, carrying around heavy cargo to lighten the burden on the already weighed-down troops.
While Big Dog is certainly not a super weapon, and it will not completely revolutionize modern warfare, it can be extremely useful for certain missions. Big Dog will be able to carry cargo indefinitely, without need for rest. Additionally, purchasing a robot such as Big Dog will eventually pay itself off in the long run, because it will replace hundreds of hours of manpower.
Big Dog is a long way off from its much more famous and dangerous robotic cousin, the unmanned aircraft, but we could see unmanned walking robots begin to make an appearance in future battlefields.
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