Why Did The U.S. Military Decide Not To Adopt “The Big Dog?”
Developed by Boston Dynamics, which is now owned by Google, the LS3 has demonstrated some impressive capabilities.
The four legged robot is sometimes known as “Big Dog,” and despite its ability to carry heavy gear, navigate rough terrain, and follow troops by interpreting verbal and visual commands, the U.S. Military has said no to adopting it for combat operations.
While DARPA has actively sought autonomous technology for various defense applications, the LS3 didn’t make the cut following a major field trail in 2014.
According to a U.S. Marines’ Warfighting Lab spokesperson, Big Dog’s major fault was its noisy operation.
Image Source: BBC News
Noisy Operation, Difficult Repair
The LS3 is powered by a gas engine, so it doesn’t come as much surprise to learn that the robot sounds similar to a lawnmower. When you’re trying to avoid detection by enemies out in the field, the last thing you want to take with you is a droning, four legged robot—even if it means lightening the load.
Among other limitations, the LS3 was also rejected for the difficulty of repairing it should something go wrong. Big Dog wasn’t the only canine-esque robot to be tested for use in the field.
Spot, a similar but smaller four legged robot was an electric-powered alternative that ran much quieter. However, it’s reduced carrying capacity, which tops out at 40lbs, and its more limited automation potential also means that it will not have a foreseeable future in the U.S. military.
Image Source: Quartz
The End For Big Dog And Spot?
Despite the years of development and considerable publicity surrounding these robots, the military’s decision to shelve the technology probably won’t be much of a disappointment for Google.
The company announced that it would move away from defense projects back in 2013 and instead has said it will be focusing on robots designed for manufacturers and industrial purposes.
The decision might not mean the end for Big Dog and Spot. While it may take years of development and better battery capabilities, among other factors, it wouldn’t be impossible to make these robots into the right stuff for DARPA.
It just doesn’t look as though Google/Boston Dynamics will be company to do it.
What are your thoughts on the military’s decision to scrap any upcoming plans for Big Dog or Spot?