Damn it. Beaten to the punch, by my own people.Months ago, I got a hold of an insane video of the walking, four-legged BigDog robot. But I had been holding off on showing it, until the magazine article about the 'bot came out.While I was twiddling my thumbs, Defense Tech contributor David Hambling talked to BigDog's masters, and checked out an updated version of the video for himself. In the latest New Scientist, he's written about this machine so "surefooted it can recover its balance even after being given a hefty kick."Check out how the BigDog stumbles, and then gets its footing back. It's the most natural motion I've ever seen a robot make.Internal force sensors detect the ground variations and compensate for them, says company president and project manager Marc Raibert. And BigDog's active balance allows it to maintain stability when we disturb it."This active balance is maintained by four legs, each with three joints powered by actuators and a fourth "springy" joint. All the joints are controlled by an onboard PC processor...The legs on the next version of BigDog, V3, will each have an additional powered joint and will be able to take on even steeper slopes and rougher terrain at higher speed, its makers say."Half of the earth's surface is inaccessible to wheels and tracks. But people and animals can walk anywhere," Raibert told me a while back. "We wanted a vehicle that could do the same."UPDATE 03/04/06 10:40 PM: Robot schmobot, says RC. New Scientist says that "the latest version of BigDog can handle slopes of 35... The hydraulics are driven by a two-stroke single-cylinder petrol engine, and it can carry over 40 kg, about 30% of its bodyweight. The robot can follow a simple path on its own, or can be remotely controlled.""Compare this to the llama," notes RC, "which has the following characteristics:"
Life span: About 20 yearsAverage height:45" at shoulder, 5-6' at the headAverage weight:250-400 lbs.A conditioned llama can carry approximately 25% to 30% of its body weight.I'll take the llama because:
1. It doesn't require gas or batteries.2. Service life of 15 years+.3. No maintenance or spare parts required!4. It's self aware.