back to article US seeks mini-Imperial Walker mule-bots

Ever since the days of the Roman legionary, foot soldiers have struggled to carry all their gear, and have preferred that someone or something else give them a hand. Arse-kicking Roman general Gaius Marius, trying to reduce the size and unwieldiness of the legions' baggage trains, made his new professional soldiers - the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That clip looks ridiculous!

    Obviously it's just two guys with skinny legs playing robot :)

  2. Adrian Jones

    Forget the military uses...

    ...I want to ride one to work!

    Just imagine, it could carry me up the stairs and curl up next to my desk. And we could have races around the car-park at lunch time.

  3. robert cooke

    IT ROCKS!!!

    I've just watched the MOV file from their site, this machine is too cool. if this is what we can look forward to with the RotM (C) el reg. Then I'm all for it. but instead of carrying a few sad backpacks it should have twin rotary barrel vulcan cannons.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh no, not again !

    So they are trying once again to re-invent nature. Except that their version will need spares and technicians to keep running.

    Previous success rate - zero, future success rate likelihood... ZERO.

  5. Brian


    Very cool! Sounds awesome, but to be honest, considering the fuel 'crisis' etc, it would be far far more effective to just bring normal mules, plus they would be easier to feed and deal with in general.

    Although the Bigdog could be deployed in areas where a 'normal' mule may not be able to work, ie deep snow, awkward terrain, amphibius landings, air drop in etc....

    I still think its very cool though! :-D

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If there's one thing I hate...

    It's journos mixing up metric and Imperial (standard) measurements in one sentence. Such as:

    '"BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring one metre long, 0.7 metres tall and 75kg far, BigDog has trotted at 3.3 mph, climbed a 35 degree slope and carried a 120 lb load," says Boston Dynamics.'

    If you're trying to leave us all none the wiser please throw in a few measurements in fathoms, firkens, angstroms and Waleses for completeness.

  7. Paul F

    Known about this for a year at least.

    I guess the contract news is new, but the dog has been on other news sites and blogs for some time. Heck, I posted it on my blog in march of 2006, and I'm not so timely.

    I think I even saw a thing on Discovery channel about this thing.

  8. Chris Cheale

    oooooh kay...

    "The goal of this effort," according to the contract announcement, "is to create legged robots that mimic animal structure, mechanics and control to achieve animal-like strength, speed and mobility.


    So why not use an animal?

    Camels would get my vote; they can survive in a wide variety of environmental conditions (better than those feeble homo sapiens anyway), can carry a fair weight and probably need refuelling less than this, their robotic counterpart.

    And, if Pratchett is right, Camels could probably work out best trajectories for artillery bombardments as well... if only we could work out how to ask them.

    In fact, the ONLY point I can see in this development is laying down the groundwork for giant AT-AT style death machines.

  9. Michael C

    Fuel cells anyone?

    If you can fit this thing with a small fuel cell and simple, exchangeable or refillable methane tank (hydrogen is not practical) I'm sure you can get 2 hours of electrical power out of it, especially if that was buffered by a battery. At peak load times (running, jumping etc) a battery can provide a boost in energy that the engine can't keep up with, and the engine could recharge the battery while walking at slower speeds and over light terrain.

    On the other hand, if this thing is meant to walk with troops, then it's meant to go where trucks and cars can't... is 2 hours enough?

    If they can't make it silent, then it's only real good use falls to survalence of hazardous terrain in cases where we don't care if we're seen (inside buildings that have been hit by bombs, etc). It looks a lot faster than traditional treaded robots used for this today so it has significant advantage there, especially if it's near autonomous. It could potentially even carry wounded. It could also be used to carry heavy munitions to top floors of buildings, ammo reloads and other equipment to troops entrenched or too far from roads (or anywhere trucks and men are at risk from snipe or other attack).

    It has its uses, more if it can be made silent and easily refueled. I don't expect it will be used as a "mule" simply to carry packs over long distance, but over short distances, especially under fire, it frees our troops for movement. Imaging one of these walking back and forth between troop clusters, dropping to the ground in a safe spot to bring a few extra clips to each group every 10 minutes or so, running a small loop between several groups and a supply rig in a safer location.

    As troops are running from corner to corner, building to building, in urban combat, covering each other as they run, this could carry their gear, allowing them to be more agile, but never far from supplies, radio, and even heavy weapons if they find a spot to set up. I like it overall.

  10. Chris

    Why not to use animals

    It's simple politics, if a robot gets shot, who gives a crap? However, if you use a bunch of mules and they get swiss cheesed, you'll have the animal rights movement firebombing everywhere!

  11. chris

    Real mules?

    Real mules are faster, probably quieter, and carry heavier loads than this thing. So why don't modern infantry use them? Because they're a ridiculous idea, that's why. Either you're being stealthy, in which case sorry but you need to carry your own kit. Or you aren't in which case, throw your kit in the back of a 4 tonner, warrior or quad bike.

    Gloriously Belize have a mule load as a standard weight measure. It's 200lb.

  12. Anton Ivanov

    I think someone else should have won this contract:

    Unfortunately as the product of the experiment shown by the BBC at the above URL has passed through the hands of the RSPCA. So I bet that it has been neutered, so it will have to be cloned or bred again. In either case it will be cheaper than building the mechanical equivalent. It can carry similar load, it is cheaper to maintain (all you need is to provision it with enough meat) and it can probably also fight (or at least defend its handler).

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Known about this for a year at least.

    Paul F,

    You are my hero...

    Can I have your babies?

  14. Adrian Jones

    For the benefit of Mike Richards

    3.3mph is the equivalent of 8,870.4 furlongs per fortnight. Roughly.

  15. Joel

    Re: Known about this for a year at least.

    Yeah me too.

    Anywho, it'd be great for military operations.. I mean, you couldn't get much stealthier than that could you.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sorry, i'm a fan of the origional series. By the looks of it there trying to create "Ravage", the dog like casette robot. Does this mean the'll build Soundwave too. Give the troops a robot-sterio and a mechanical attack dog, what more could American troops want?

    Better armour.

  17. Danny

    They invented a mule replacement in 1940....

    It's called a "jeep". It seems anything done right once is worth doing over and over again poorly.

  18. John Stag

    Is that really the noise it makes...?

    Is that really the noise it makes? The enemy will hear it coming a mile off and after ten minutes of that din I'd be taking pot shots at it myself. "Yeah, sarge, it broke again..."

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paul F. says...

    I think I even saw a thing on Discovery channel about this thing.


    I thought anyone who read The Register was too cool to watch the Discovery channel.

  20. Paul F

    re: Paul F. says...

    Military Channel then? Science Channel? I dunno, it was just on TV one day. I have roommates you know.

    And I only want robot babies. Like these.

  21. Joni Kähärä


    Don't know if this one can be adapted in practical terms to a cargo transport vehicle but it does look that it could take a few more hits than the legged 'Dog.

  22. Chris Goodchild


    I think this machine is a marvelous idea, particularly if it has large ears like a bloodhound where you can fit solar panels to suplement it's energy requirements. However, the notion of using it for going ahead over potential mine fields in view of it's probable cost is offensive, it is much cheaper and more practical to use second lieutenants fresh out of officer training as they are generally not much use, often more dangerous to their own side than the enemy and since there is normally a good supply of preppy types in western society, they are a renewable resource. Oh and to the chap who thought mules are probably quieter than this machine is definately a towny. Last thing this would be code named `Squaddy Rover´?

  23. John A Blackley

    Did you really say

    "Arse-kicking Roman general Gaius Marius"? Ye Gods!

  24. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Multiple problems

    First of all, the noise issue is a very big one. Who is this "dog" supposed to be for ? Special Forces ? Not if it makes a racket. Regular troops ? They march by the hundreds and make enough racket already, so just put a truck behind them to carry their stuff, it won't make much of a difference.

    I can imagine a robot for bomb-disposal or landmine detection (just have it run over the target zone), but I don't think troops would like regular visits from an ammo robot that would reveal their position on a continuous basis. I have no experience myself, but I don't think that real-life combat resembles Counter-Strike or BF2142 in any way. I think real troops in a firefight prefer cover and concealment. A racket-making robot dragging ammo around every quarter hour would tear both to shreds, not to mention being a walking target of destruction itself (hey, isn't that an ammo dog ? Give me the rocket launcher and tell me where it stops !).

    As for the stealth aspect of things, if it is supposed to go on a mission with Special Forces troops, then it needs to be as silent as possible and a lot more enduring than 2 hours, or even four. Special Forces missions are not the kind you do in two hours, in my opinion. Trekking over a few kilometers of jungle to infiltrate an enemy position with the goal of destroying a satellite dish or fuel tanks is not going to be facilitated by a robodog that needs feeding every two hours. And they're not going to carry it until they need it - they have enough to carry already.

    Frankly put, aside from bomb detection and eventually disposal, I fail to see where a robodog is really going to be better than a more conventional transport vehicle.

  25. Josh


    Obviously these guys haven't seen Star Wars. If they had, they'd know the AT-TEs and AT-ATs could easily be taken down at the legs (Though the AT-TE seemed more stable which I never understood why).

  26. Iain Cartledge

    Breaking News

    Iran demolishes nuclear facilities, to replace with string factories.

    Also, if you've ever smelled a mule you'll know why they'd prefer a robot.

  27. Dave

    what more could American troops want??

    A robot that stops them taking pot shots at British troops (they'll be the ones yomping and tabbing without mechanical assistants - deadly, quiet and stealthy) would be a good start

  28. tony trolle

    re: 'Crusher' Vehicle

    looks like the one of U.S. army maned 'twister' projects from the 70's including the clearing 4 foot wall.

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