Robot drones and remote vehicles are changing the way wars are fought. One 'bot that could help soldiers stuck in tomorrow's trenches is the AlphaDog by Boston Dynamics, which aims to "combine the capabilities of a pack mule with the intelligence of a trained animal," a DARPA manager said in a release.
Human soldiers can only carry so much, and infantry gear can be as much as balancing act as picking the right tool for the job. For instance, carrying a heavy weapon also means heavier ordinance to use it, and extra medical gear comes at the cost of firepower. The weight the average U.S. soldier carries into battle — anywhere between 60 and 100 pounds — is frequently a talking point.
That's where a robot such as AlphaDog, also known as L3 or the Legged Squad Support System, comes in handy.
AlphaDog is built to carry up to 400 pounds of gear over a range of 20 miles without needing to refuel. While still in testing, Boston Dynamics taught the 'bot two new tricks: autonomously following a human leader, and accepting commands from a soldier using a control pad. Boston Dynamics has also worked to reduce the amount of noise the machine makes. In the future, Boston Dynamics could teach AlphaDog to respond to voice commands, meaning any soldier could radio instructions to it rather than having to use a controller.
You can see AlphaDog prowl the forest below, and in the last half it's walking happily along after its target human.