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BigDog Throws Cinder Blocks with Huge Robotic Face-Arm

I don't know why BigDog needs a fifth limb to throw cinder blocks, but it's incredibly awesome

1 min read
Image: Boston Dynamics

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 ]

The Conversation (0)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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