War is heavy. Not, just, in the deep moral implications of organized violence, but also very literally, in that fighting a war takes a lot of heavy equipment. To help lighten the load, the United States Marine Corps looked to the future: a robotic mule, capable of carrying 400 pounds of gear. After years of development and a couple high-profile trials, the Marines are abandoning the machine. Listen closely and you can hear why:
The robot is built by the Alphabet-owned Boston Dynamics. It was developed for DARPA under the name LS3, or “Legged Squad Support System”, and it can climb hills, carry weight, and follow humans into battle. It just can’t do it quietly. Rather than aiding Marines in battle, that noise turns the mechanical mule into a dead (and deadly) giveaway.
For a military that wants to dramatically increase its robotic soldiers by 2030, this is a setback, but not an insurmountable one. Next time the military asks for a legged squad support system, it should make sure it asks for a legged silent squad support system.