Robot dog pack keeps growls to a whimper

Image of AlphaDogs
Boston Dynamics' AlphaDog robots are shown here trotting down a road. The canines are being developed as intelligent pack animals for the U.S. military.DARPA via YouTube

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By John Roach

The U.S. military-funded robot dog program now has two electronic canines in training to haul gear for soldiers over rugged terrain. Each member of the pack is also 10 times quieter than its predecessor robot, which should make it easier to hold a conversation or sneak up on an enemy.

The Legged Squad Support System (LS3), as the Boston Dynamics’ AlphaDog robots are known, are being developed for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a sort of an intelligent pack mule that won’t freak out when shots are fired or a mutt walks by on the other side of the hiking trail.

In the video below, it’s clear that the robots are far from stealth, but their moving parts are quiet enough to hear the robots' footsteps on the ground. The previous version of the robot was so loud that all you could hear was the sound of its motor. 

The robots have also been trained to follow the leader, can walk up to 3 miles per hour over rocky terrain and transition to a 5-mile-per-hour jog on a flat surface. Eventually, top speed will be around 7 miles per hour on flat surfaces.

The robots will even right themselves should they stumble, without even a whimper.

Each of these advances should make the robots useful to soldiers who need to cover ground inaccessible to their Humvees. Let’s just hope these dogs don’t turn on their owners. 

  via IEEE, DARPA

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.