Boston Dynamics Gets $10 Million from DARPA for New Stealthy, Bulletproof LS3

DARPA wants the next generation LS3 robotic mule to be quiet, rugged, and ready for action

2 min read
Boston Dynamics Gets $10 Million from DARPA for New Stealthy, Bulletproof LS3

You'd think that Boston Dynamics would be all kinds of busy building (and supporting) a small army of Atlas robots for the DARPA Robotics Challenge. But, it looks like they've somehow managed to find the time to continue working on all of their other systems as well, like BigDog's big brother, LS3. Last week, DARPA committed to investing an extra $10 million towards a more robust and (eventually) deployable robot.

DARPA is very specific about what they want to see in the next-gen LS3, namely:

...the development of an enhanced version of the LS3 system with increased reliability and usability, enhanced survivability against small arms fire and a quiet power supply to support stealthy tactical operations.

It's no surprise that quiet power supply is on that list, since LS3's gas-powered hydraulic pump sounds like a swarm of angry bees, if the bees were the size of domestic cats. However, finding a power supply that can keep LS3 running all day isn't going to be easy; it's very hard to match the power density (and general availability) of liquid fuel. One option might be to turn LS3 into a hybrid, giving it a sort of temporary on-demand "stealth mode."

Survivability is also an important step towards deployment. As we've seen, LS3 is reasonably well protected from any trouble that it might get itself into (running into trees, falling into ditches, that sort of thing). It does have some vulnerable spots, though, like all of those complicated (and expensive) head sensors, and we imagine that some of the hydraulics might not react well to being shot either. LS3 isn't designed for combat (videos like these notwithstanding), but if it's to be useful in a gear-hauling capacity, there'll certainly be some risk to the robot, and it would be a shame if a single well-placed round could pit it out of commission.

The estimated completion date for this new part of the contract is March 31, 2015, but we probably shouldn't read too much into that. And anyway, we're secretly (not so secretly anymore) hoping to be riding an LS3 around our neighborhood well before then.

[ Boston Dynamics ] via [ ]

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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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