DARPA's Amazing Robot Pack Mule Keeps its Balance On Ice

A new video of the Army's BigDog 'bot highlights its eery abilities

Two years ago we showed you Boston Dynamics' incredible BigDog—one of the world's most ambitious legged robots—being developed for DARPA and the U.S. Army. With its advanced system of hyper-responsive hydraulic joints and a suite of sensors, accelerometers and gyroscopes, the BigDog's most stunning achievement is it's ability to walk, climb and maintain its balance on diverse terrain, even after slipping on ice or receiving a kick to one side. All while carrying several hundreds of pounds of supplies on its "back."

In this new video, we see the latest BigDog iteration taking a stroll through the woods, stomping through ice and snow, showing off a new gallop, and in one of the more amazing things you'll see today, regaining its balance autonomously after slipping on a patch of ice. The amount of real-time computation involved in something like this is staggering, and if the YouTube comments are anything to say about it ("Shoot it. SHOOT IT!"), we humans may not be quite ready to accept such lifelike behavior coming from a machine.

If and when it enters service, BigDog could support troops on the battlefield by carrying heavy cargo or evacuating the wounded. But for now, it's sticking to making online video fans' jaws drop.