BigDog has grown an arm out of its face, and it's using it to throw cinder blocks across a room. Uh, wow.
Boston Dynamics hasn't posted much in the way of additional information on this, besides the following caption on the YouTube video:
BigDog handles heavy objects. The goal is to develop techniques for using the strength of the legs and torso to help power motions of the arm. This sort of dynamic approach is routinely used by human athletes and is now improving the performance of robots. The research is performed by Boston Dynamics with funding from the Army Research Laboratory through the RCTA.
The cinder block likely weighs something like 50 pounds (23 kg), so a lot of force is required to toss it like that. If you watch closely in the slow-motion, you can definitely see how BigDog is relying on its entire body to make the throw, and not just moving its arm. As Boston Dynamics points out, it's common for humans (and animals) to rely on integrated whole-body motion like this, and you may have noticed it in another Boston Dynamics bio-inspired robot, Cheetah, which gets running power from its back as well as its feet and legs.
Having an absurdly powerful arm for a face is likely good for a lot more than just tossing cinder blocks around, and we can't wait to see what Boston Dynamics comes up with next.
[ Boston Dynamics ]
Evan Ackerman is the senior writer for IEEE Spectrum's award-winning robotics blog, Automaton. Since 2007, he has written over 6,000 articles on robotics and emerging technology, covering conferences and events on every single continent except Antarctica (although he remains optimistic). In addition to Spectrum, Evan's work has appeared in a variety of other online publications including Gizmodo and Slate, and you may have heard him on NPR's Science Friday or the BBC World Service if you were listening at just the right time. Evan has an undergraduate degree in Martian geology, which he almost never gets to use, and still wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. In his spare time, he enjoys scuba diving, rehabilitating injured raptors, and playing bagpipes excellently.