The rescue robot with a teddy head has gone through nine different prototypes on its way to becoming a rugged battlefield medic for the U.S. military. Now new prototypes of BEAR can lift a quarter of a ton, while balancing gracefully on their treads.

Vecna Robotics hopes that BEAR (Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot) can eventually find and rescue humans in any number of hazardous situations, ranging from bullet-torn battlefields to chemical accident sites and earthquake-damaged buildings.

CNET reports that the latest prototype incorporates explosion- and fire-resistant battery cells, along with a hydraulics-driven upper body that can lift 500 pounds. Two independent treads that serve as flexible “legs” allow the robot to balance easily on its ankles, knees, or even hips.

Vecna’s website notes that BEAR has demonstrated standing capability while holding a fully-weighted human mannequin, and has also moved around with its human load while balanced in an upright position.

PopSci has covered rescue robots before, such as the Tokyo Fire Department model, which uses a rather unfriendly-looking robotic claw.

Perhaps a next step for the precocious BEAR might involve a training trip to Disaster City, where it could show its stuff in front of its rescue robot brethren. But for now, we simply look forward to the day when bots can save human lives under fire — no posthumous Medals of Honor necessary.

[via CNET]