This is getting serious: the Marine Corps is now testing a mechanical replacement for military working dogs. According to an article at Ars Technica, the Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico is working with DARPA to investigate wartime applications for Spot, a 160-pound, hydraulicly actuated quadruped robot developed by Google's Boston Dynamics division.
The Marines love the mechanical dog. Captain James Pineiro, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab's Quantico branch said, "Spot is great and has exceeded the metrics that we’ve provided. The Marines have been very receptive to the new technology, embrace it and came up with new ideas we couldn’t even dream up. We see it as a great potential for the future dismounted infantry. We want to continue to experiment with quadruped technology and find ways that this can be employed to enhance the Marine Corps warfighting capabilties."
Spot can be operated at a distance of up to 500 meters by a Marine with a game controller tethered to a laptop, so there are a lot of surveillance opportunities.
No word, however, on what this piece of gear will cost the Pentagon and U.S. taxpayers and it's hard to imagine robotic dogs providing the kind of kinship and emotional support that makes military working dogs so beloved. If dog robots prove a success, then we're one step closer to armies of Terminator-style combat robots that will allow the brass to put boots on the ground without having to justify the casualties to the folks back home.
There's a lot to discuss here. Does replacing military working dogs with robots make sense? Do working dogs have a role beyond their military applications? Are you looking forward to possibly living in a world defended by drone soldiers operated with game controllers? Sound off!