In the video below, you can see an AlphaDog prototype trot along like a mechanical horse. It smoothly steps over loose rocks and a pipe, rebounds after a two-person shove, and rights itself when it’s on its side. The technology is an evolution of BigDog, which could catch itself when skidding across ice and carry 340 pounds.
This motorized mule (officially dubbed Legged Squad Support Systems, or LS3) will be able to carry 400 pounds nonstop for up to 24 hours (or 20 miles) over rugged terrain. This could be a great boon to combat soldiers, who have to lug over a hundred pounds of payload. And rather than need a human driver, AlphaDog will use computer vision to follow a squadron leader on its own, or GPS to go to a predetermined location, according to Boston Dynamics.
The first completed version, funded by DARPA and the US Marine Corps, is aimed for 2012.
When designing an embedded system choosing which tools to use often comes down to building a custom solution or buying off-the-shelf tools.