March 1, 2013 at 2:10 PM ET
Everyone's favorite buzzing, prancing robot, the BigDog from Boston Dynamics, has a new trick. It now has an arm which can be used to manipulate nearby objects with great force — for instance, in this video, tossing a cinder block a good 15 feet.
The approach Boston Dynamics is taking is to use the robot's whole body as power for its actions. So, as you can see, it actually bends down to pick up the block rather than just extending its arm further. And it tilts its whole body to one side as a counterweight to the block before it throws.
BigDog's creators point out (in their characteristically minimal YouTube description) that this is how athletes and real animals perform many tasks, and it does appear to be practical — but it's also eerily lifelike. The improved body and lessened noise from the original have failed to make its uncanny animal-like movements any less unnerving.
The latest news on the BigDog project, which is currently funded by the Army Research Laboratory, can always be found on the Boston Dynamics YouTube page. They typically upload a video or two every few months.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.