BigDog robot learns to throw

It’s usually the human that throws, and the dog that fetches. But Boston Dynamics’ BigDog robot has now been demonstrated hurling cinder blocks across a room.

The four-legged robot lacks a head, but now has a robotic arm just where you’d expect the head to be. In the video (see below), it uses this arm to pick up a  large cinder block and hurl it over its shoulder, smashing it on the ground.

“The goal is to use the strength of the legs and torso to help power motions of the arm,” says Boston Dynamics. “This sort of dynamic, whole-body approach is routinely used by human athletes and animals, and will enhance the performance of advanced robots.”

Boston Dynamics describes BigDog as the ‘alpha male’ of its range. The three-foot-long robot weighs 240 pounds and contains sensors for joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a gyroscope, LIDAR and a stereo vision system.

It can run at four miles per hour, climb slopes up to 35 degrees, walk across rubble, climb a muddy hiking trail and walk in snow and water – all while carrying a 340 lb load. BigDog’s set a world’s record for legged vehicles by traveling 12.8 miles without stopping or refueling.

Adding the robotic arm gives BigDog a whole new range of capabilities. It could help soldiers pick up and carry heavy loads, such as supplies and equipment. It could also be used in search and rescue missions, to clear debris or even rescue people – although seeing that thing coming for you might easily cause a heart attack rather than reassurance.