Friends, Romans, gadget-freeks, I present to you BigDog, quite possibly the kewlest real-life robot ever. (Link courtesy of my high-school drama teacher.)
BigDog is the alpha male of the Boston Dynamics family of robots. It is a quadruped robot that walks, runs, and climbs on rough terrain and carries heavy loads. BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight.
Point of note: at least in the video (yes, there is awesome video at the link), it appears to resemble the “small mule” more than the “large dog,” despite the don’t-mess-with-me name. At least when you ignore that it doesn’t have anything analogous to a head.
Aside from the fact that a headless metal-and-plastic mule-dog doesn’t quite amount to the butt-kicking conversation piece around the home that, say, a three-tier pinball machine or omnipresent single-remote home entertainment complex might, you’d likely be the first kid on your block to have one.
BigDog can carry loads of 340 lbs. or more (400 lbs. in the video demo), negotiate rough terrain, climb or even hop over some obstacles, stay on its “feet” on slippery surfaces like ice, and even weather considerable attempts to push it over. Plus, with the gas engine, it sounds like Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre while it’s coming at you. The only thing that keeps it from reaching a whole new level of badassity is the absence of heavy ordnance mounted anywhere, but I can only imagine that part must still be in the testing stages. It’s not like nobody’s ever thought of this before.
Click on the link in the intro paragraph to check out the video and read more about BigDog’s badass kewlness. And ‘scuse me while I make adjustments to my Christmas list.
UPDATE: There is also a LittleDog at Boston Dynamics, which is about the size and configuration of a large bullfrog. As it walks, it might also remind you of an enormous beetle. There is also the insectile RiSE robot for untethered climbs up sheer faces (much like the mecha-bugs from Runaway). The amphibious RHex robot, which can navigate swampy, muddy, even underwater conditions (as well as dry land) is more like a six-legged platypus. Yeah, that’s right, I said a six-legged platypus. If you’d seen one, you’d know.