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Find Out Why the U.S. Marines Have Shelved Their Robo-Mule

The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) during Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercises. (Image:   U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Sarah Dietz)
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) during Rim of the Pacific 2014 exercises. (Image: U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Sarah Dietz)

You may have seen a video of this above odd-looking four-legged robot that had been in testing for the U.S. military over the past few years. Officially called the Legged Squad Support System (LS3), it also goes by the nicknames “the robotic-mule” or “big dog.”

You may also not be surprised to hear that this ungainly looking bit of robotic machinery has now been shelved because it’s too loud. The robot’s engine, by all accounts, sounds like a lawn mower. Apart from being noisy, it was also reportedly not easy to repair.

“During field trials conducted in 2014, the LS3’s weaknesses became obvious,” said Kyle Olson from the U.S. Marines’ Warfighting Lab.

“There was the challenge of seeing [its] potential… because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Olson told Military.com.

“They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”

Watch this video of the robotic-mule posted by its creators, Google Inc.’s Boston Dynamics:

Designed to lighten the load for infantry, the petrol-powered robotic-mule can carry up to 400 lbs (181.4 kg) of gear over rough terrain. Initially $32 million was spent on its development, which was followed by another $10 million, said Military.com.

Leftover funds were used to try and get around the sound challenges, so they built a smaller version powered by an electric engine. Called “spot,” the electric form is the size of a large dog, and it was put through testing in 2014.

While it didn’t have sound issues, spot was not big enough to really be of much use because it could only carry around 40 lbs (18 kg), and it lacked the automation capacity of the LS3, reported the BBC.

Unless top Marine brass have a change of heart, both the robo-mule and spot have been shelved indefinitely.

The robots were developed by Boston Dynamics with the U.S. military’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Watch spot in action in this Boston Dynamics video:

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