A robot known as the "BigDog," created by Boston Dynamics at the behest of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), demonstrated a new capability in a video published Thursday featuring the pack-mule creation lifting a cinder block and using its whole body to throw it, like a human athlete might lob something heavy.
It's the first time Boston Dynamics has shown off the "BigDog" handling heavy objects, and the company seems to have high hopes for this latest advance. A Boston Dynamics spokesperson told Raw Story the cinder block weighed roughly 35 lbs. and the throw was about 17 feet.
"There are a wide variety of applications, both military and civilian, where strong and dexterous manipulation would be needed," the spokesperson added. "Think of anything a person does now in the field, such as clearing ruble, fighting a fire, digging up an IED, etc. Rather than focus on a specific mission right now, the RCTA program is focused on core functionality that will be useful for many applications."
The company has been steadily improving "BigDog" for years with funding from the Army Research Laboratory, which envisions using the device as a gear-carrying companion for soldiers. The company showed off "BigDog" in 2009 reacting to being pushed and aligning its balance similarly to humans and animals, in yet another robotics first for the project.
The addition of an agile arm capable of lifting and even throwing heavy objects would seem to make the device all the more useful for combat missions where disposing of explosive ordinance can pose life threatening risks to humans, or if soldiers are simply carrying too much of a load to bear themselves.
This video was published to YouTube on Feb. 28, 2013.
Updated with quotes.