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Big Dog robot

There are some pretty amazing robots out there these days, but Big Dog has to take the biscuit. Created by Boston Dynamics, Big Dog is a rough-terrain robot, engineered to ascend steep slopes, clamber over obstacles, and, in its latest incarnation, run at speeds up to 5mph! It also holds a robot world record by traveling 12.8 miles without stopping or refueling.

Big Dog is able to achieve these feats using a variety of sensors that detect the position and load on its joints, its contact with the ground and its balance. It (he? she?) has stereo vision and a LIDAR (light detection and ranging) system which enable it to calculate its position in relation to other objects, and negotiate accordingly. In the meantime – in the back of its mind – it also needs to keep track of motorised mundanities such as oil temperature, battery charge etc.

Watching Big Dog recover its balance when pushed by its mischievous creators, or struggle to keep it’s footing on ice, it certainly seems to pass at least one Turing-like test: looking more animal than machine. The incessant buzzing of its motors gives its game away somewhat, like a harrowing robotic war cry, approaching from the far distance: “We’re coming.”

Of course, the Big Dog project is funded by the Tactical Technology Office, DARPA. Or the US Department of Defense.

Now you’re worried.

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