All of us at GeekTech love to follow the development of AlphaDog, the cargo-carrying robot under development from DARPA and Boston Dynamics. We’ve watched it grow from a mere idea to a fully operational robot, learning new tricks along the way. Now, it’s learning how to follow troops while carrying their heavy equipment.
AlphaDog, also known as the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), can now understand voice commands such as “power on” and “leader follow.” When a squad leader (or anyone with the LS3 control headpiece) issues a follow command, AlphaDog stands up and begins to trot along.
As it follows the leader, AlphaDog’s on-board perception system maps out the route you just took, plus a projection of all the obstacles it would need to move around in order to keep up. As it approaches an obstacle, it then maps out the best way of going over or around it without falling over. On the off chance it does tip over, Boston Dynamics recently improved both the way it rolls over, and how quickly it recovers.
As you can see in the video, there's something endearing about the robot as it rolls around on the ground.
AlphaDog will spend 2013 performing a number of demonstrations to test its capabilities in various environments, while development to make it the ultimate pack mule—well, dog—continues through until 2014.