Boston Dynamics builds robots so advanced they look as though they came straight out of the famous science fiction fantasy, Star Wars. Teamed with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Boston Dynamics created a variety of advanced robots using sensory-based controls enabling complex mechanisms. These robots that DARPA and the military are funding, along with Boston Dynamics and other robotic corporations, can travel through rough terrain, carry hundreds of pounds of supplies, follow soldiers on the move, accurately fire at targets 150 meters away, utilize thermal imaging to find these targets, and detect and destroy bombs.
There are three categories these robots can fall under to make it easier to explain them. There are the large four-legged robots, the small robots, and the humanoid robots. Boston Dynamics created a four-legged robot called LS3. It is much like the AT-AT Walker from Star Wars because, like the All-Terrain Armored Transport, it is capable of maneuvering in all types of environments and the ability to carry heavy gear. The LS3 carries up to 400 pounds of equipment for 20 miles lasting 24hours. It uses GPS and terrain sensing in order to travel to its ordered location.
The Cheetah is another four-legged robot and is the fasted one created. This robot can run a little over 29 miles per hour. Running on a high-speed treadmill during testing, videos of the Cheetah show how it increases its stride in order to go faster.
BigDog is considered the most advanced rough terrain robot on earth. It can run, climb, and carry heavy equipment. Its sensors can decipher what kind of terrain it must travel in, such as sandy, wet, rocky, steep, wooded, or muddy. It can manage to stay in motion on any variety of terrain it encounters.
Although the technology straight from Star Wars has enveloped two large Umbaran robots, the similarities they have with the Boston Dynamics small robots are striking. The Umbaran MHC and the Umbaran Crawler Tank maneuver much like the small robots created by Boston Dynamics.
The RHex is a six-legged robot that can climb through rocks, mud, sand, over fallen trees, and up stairways for up to 700 meters. The RiSE robot also has six legs and can climb vertical terrain such as walls, trees, and fences. The Sandflea is a robot with four wheels that can only travel on flat terrain, but can jump 30 feet into the air, landing on a roof or over a fence. Able to jump25 times on one charge, a camera provides assurance for an accurate landing each time.
Boston Dynamics has become extremely advanced with their technology and utilizing amazing complex mechanisms to create human-like robots, much like droids straight out of Star Wars. The droids from the movies know as Battle Droids, Police Droids, Commando Droids, and even the Super Battle Droids could be the advanced versions of the robots called Atlas and PETMAN.
Atlas is a humanoid strong enough to maneuver through terrain using its hands and feet, and able to pick its way through congested spaces. PETMAN, an anthropomorphic, was designed to test protective clothing, determining how soldiers stress protective gear under any type of environmental condition. It can balance itself extremely well and move quite freely. One video of the robot testing amazed its viewers due to the physical features of PETMAN inside a protective suit. In the testing video, it moves like a human. Walking bending, turning, and twisting its body just like a human would. The contents inside the suit, PETMAN, could easily be mistaken for a human.
DARPA and other military organizations say they will be using these robots overseas to keep as many soldiers as they can alive. The point is to save the lives of U.S. soldiers on the battlefield. Many believe that the robots will be used in America during a time of emergency or a time of war. However they are used, the battlefield may look like a scene straight out of Star Wars as the technology and science of robots becomes more advanced in the future.
By Brittany Varner-Miller