Marine Corps Powers Down Robotic Mule

The U.S. Marine Corps has decided to power down its robotic mule, at least for now anyway.

That's according to my colleague, Hope Hodge Seck, who reported at Military.com that the service has decided to shelve its Legged Squad Support System, known more popularly as the robotic mule, or robo-mule:

Marines' barrel-chested Legged Squad Support System -- known affectionately as the robotic mule -- has been put out to pasture.

The machine, which resembles a headless pack mule made of metal, came about through a $32 million, two-and-a-half year contract between the Pentagon's research arm, known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Google Inc.'s Boston Dynamics, of Waltham, Massachusetts.

DARPA teamed up with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to create an autonomous four-legged creature that could lighten troops' load by carrying 400 or more pounds of weight, according to reports about the 2010 contract.

While the prototype helped Marines by carrying as much as 400 pounds of their gear, its lawnmower-like gas engine proved to be too noisy and officials struggled to figure out to maintain it in the field and incorporate it into traditional patrols, Hodge Seck reported. Even a smaller dog-sized electric version of the robot named Spot was put into storage.

But that doesn't mean the folks at Boston Dynamics won't come up with more advanced robots designed for troops or possible military applications. Engineers continue to field-test everything from the humanoid Atlas to headless quadrupeds that resemble reindeer, as the company's holiday video below shows.

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