AlphaDogs created by Boston Dynamics have been deemed too clamorous in order to be employed in actual military combat.
The autonomous pack mules had been developed back in 2005 by a team of experts from Boston Dynamics, a robotics engineering firm which was bought by Google X in December 2013, and is now part of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.
The project had been conducted with support from other researchers, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Harvard University’s Concord Field Station, and Qinetiq North America’s Foster-Miller.
The creation of these mechanical quadrupeds, initially called BigDogs or LS3 (Legged Squad Support Systems), had been sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), with the purpose of aiding soldiers in transporting heavy equipment across rugged terrain.
The robots, measuring around 3 feet in length and weighing approximately 240 pounds, had been proven capable of carrying loads amounting to 340 pounds, across slopes of up to 35 degrees, therefore appearing to be of great assistance during military missions, when soldiers endure prolonged physical strain.
Even more interestingly, the quadrupeds required no controller, relying solely on verbal and visual commands received from their human companions.
LS3’s intricate locomotion process, involving around 50 sensors keeping track of altitude, velocity, temperature, force and pressure, allowed it to skillfully navigate through its surroundings, even when moving at around 4 miles per hour.
It was also able to function continuously for 24 hours, covering distances of up to 20 miles, while being operated by a gas engine.
Due to all these impressive technical specifications, the machine had been hailed as one of the most remarkable inventions in the last few years, Dr. Martin Buekler, who had been in charge with this project, even being presented with the Joseph F. Engelberger Award, by the Robotics Industries Association.
It had been expected that LS3 would be much more than a prototype worthy of admiration and public acclaim, as a hugely useful addition on the battlefield, unlike its successor Spot, which can only transport around 40 pounds and has a much lower level of autonomy.
However, these hopes have been recently shattered on December 22, when the United States Marine Corps came to the conclusion that the robotic pack mules are simply too noisy in order to be of any help to soldiers.
As explained by Kyle Olson, a representative of the Warfighting Lab, the robots can actually cause more harm than good, because the clattering, humming sounds they make can put troops at risk of being spotted by the enemy, in spite of their efforts of advancing undetected.
The project has already cost a staggering $42 million, but now officials believe that no more money should be invested in this venture involving AlphaDogs, which will never yield the desired results.
On the other hand, the Marine Corps hasn’t excluded the possibility of using unmanned, robotic pack mules in the future.
Despite the failure suffered by LS3, there are still hopes that another autonomous device will be developed, allowing soldiers to transport their supplies more easily than ever before.
It is even predicted that by harnessing the powers of technology, researchers will eventually develop robotic equipment capable of providing U.S. troops with a crucial competitive advantage during warfare.
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