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Posted: 6/27/2006 9:30:07 AM EDT
Rise of the machines: DARPA tests new technology at VMX-22

June 27, 2006; Submitted on: 06/27/2006 08:59:38 AM ; Story ID#: 200662785938

By Lance Cpl. M. L. Meier, MCAS New River

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. (June 27, 2006) -- On June 15 and 16, in a demonstration reminiscent of a new age science-fiction flick, a quadruped robot standing almost 3 feet tall descended down the ramp of an MV-22 “Osprey,” followed by a 50 pound hospital on wheels and a Marine in a wearable exoskeleton.

The first stunning display of technology is known as BigDog. This robot’s legs are articulated like an animal’s and absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog has run at a rate of 3.3 mph, climbed a 35 degree slope and carried a 120 pound load.

“BigDog is going to someday, hopefully, give us the ability to have a mechanical mule to follow us around in the field and carry a couple hundred pounds of supplies,” said John Main, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency program manager.

The idea behind BigDog is that machines with legs can get to places machines with wheels and tracked vehicles cannot, said Marc Raibert, president of Boston Dynamics, the company that has been working on BigDog with DARPA for the past three years.

From expeditionary missions to urban combat, where there are ladderwells, ditches and other barriers, DARPA intends to make this robot able to go anywhere a Marine can go, he said.

The Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation Program is a wearable robot that gives its wearer mechanical arms and legs, said Main.

It gives him the ability to carry up to 200 pounds without feeling the load. The exoskeleton gives the Marine the ability to carry a lot more supplies, body armor, ammunition or anything that he would need to take with him in a place a vehicle cannot go, he explained.

“You can basically hang anything on the suit,” he said.

The third demonstration to roll off the “Osprey” ramp was the Life Support for Trauma and Transport-lite. The original LSTAT has been in operation since 1999; however, the LSTAT-lite is more affordable and not as heavy. At a mere 50 pounds, the LSTAT-lite is much more transportable than its 200 pound predecessor.

Main said he believes it is important for DARPA and the Marine Corps to work together so they can be sure that their research is going to benefit the Marines. The importance of performing the demonstration with the “Osprey” is so DARPA’s researchers can see how it all will work together and the only way to do that is to try things out, he said.

Although any three of these devices could have jumped off the pages of a sci-fi novel rather than the back ramp of an Osprey, DARPA brought them all to life and right here on New River.

“If it’s possible in our minds to make it happen, DARPA can do that for Marines,” said Lt. Col. Ed Tovar, DARPA program manager. “The great thing about Marines is we always think there’s a better way to do things and DARPA helps us do that.”

For more information on these and other projects go to www.bostondynamics.com or www.darpa.mil.
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 9:34:25 AM EDT
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 9:37:24 AM EDT
So what kind of weapon is that white thing mounted on the right side of that exoskeleton?
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 9:39:17 AM EDT
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 9:41:01 AM EDT
it's an electric powered super soaker with fading ink.

it's part of a new high tech less grousome war where the rules are much like air-soft.  It's based on the honesty system.  Don't worry our soldiers are honest
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 9:42:48 AM EDT
General Dynamics XM307 minus FCU and Tripod
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 10:00:03 AM EDT

With tech like this, I'm thinking full-blown powered armor may well be a reality within my lifetime.
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 10:39:57 AM EDT
I've seen test video of those bid dog things, they're kinda freaky.  The operator would try to kick them over and they would stumble and regain their balance, pretty cool.  

I guess science fiction is once again not as far out as we once thought.  Powered Armor sounds really sweet...
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 10:42:46 AM EDT
Only thing I can think is your going to end up with a few pissed off Marines who have to carry both Big Dog AND the 120 pounds of supplies back after Big Dog gets a bullet in the leg.

But then again, I've never been there so I'll let them choose to use as they see fit.
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 10:56:52 AM EDT
The four horseman
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 11:04:31 AM EDT
Yeah alot of this stuff seems pretty cool. Though I imagine things like power armor will be pretty primitive for a while. The main issue with most of these things is how to power them for extended periods of time.
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 1:56:49 PM EDT

General Dynamics XM307 minus FCU and Tripod

So I wonder if you can actually fire that from the hip like that.
Link Posted: 6/27/2006 2:02:17 PM EDT


General Dynamics XM307 minus FCU and Tripod

So I wonder if you can actually fire that from the hip like that.

Do a Steadicam mount, ala Vasquez in Aliens.

Link Posted: 6/27/2006 4:56:57 PM EDT
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