DARPA has begun real world testing of a quadruped robot that can traverse all sorts of terrain and act as a pack mule for soldiers. This semi-autonomous robot is called Legged Squad Support System (LS3) and is developed from Boston Dynamic's Big Dog and Alpha Dog robots. The agency has released the first field test video of the LS3 navigating an outdoor terrain.
The LS3 prototype is equipped with sensors that allow it to distinguish between trees, rocks, soldiers, and other obstacles in the terrain. An 18-month test will start in July before the LS3 is deployed in an actual field exercise for the US Marines. The LS3 will continue to be refined during this period and ultimately must be able to carry 400lbs for 20 miles without refueling within 24 hours.
Its vision sensors will be tested and refined to ensure that it can properly detect obstacles and autonomously correct its course as needed. Hearing sensors will be added so that the LS3 can follow verbal commands from soldiers. It also serves as an auxiliary power source that soldiers can use to recharge batteries for handheld devices.
[via Armed with Science]