LS3 Robot Plays Fol­low the Leader

SP's LandForces - - TECHNOLOGY / TECKNOW -

FOR THE PAST TWO weeks, in the woods of cen­tral Vir­ginia around Fort Pick­ett, the Legged Squad Sup­port Sys­tem (LS3) four-legged robot has been show­ing off its ca­pa­bil­i­ties dur­ing field test­ing. Work­ing with the Marine Corps Warfight­ing Lab­o­ra­tory (MCWL), re­searchers from DARPA’s LS3 pro­gramme demon­strated new ad­vances in the robot’s con­trol, sta­bil­ity and ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity, in­clud­ing “Leader Fol­low” de­ci­sion mak­ing, en­hanced roll re­cov­ery, ex­act foot place­ment over rough ter­rain, the abil­ity to ma­noeu­vre in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, and ver­bal com­mand ca­pa­bil­ity.

The LS3 pro­gramme seeks to demon­strate that a highly mo­bile, semi-au­tonomous legged robot can carry 400 lbs of a squad’s equip­ment, fol­low squad mem­bers through rugged ter­rain and in­ter­act with troops in a nat­u­ral way sim­i­lar to a trained an­i­mal with its han­dler. The robot could also be able to ma­noeu­vre at night and serve as a mo­bile aux­il­iary power source to the squad, so troops can recharge bat­ter­ies for ra­dios and hand­held de­vices while on pa­trol.

“This was the first time DARPA and MCWL were able to get LS3 out on the test­ing grounds to­gether to sim­u­late mil­i­tary-rel­e­vant train­ing con­di­tions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Hitt, DARPA Pro­gram Man­ager. “The robot’s per­for­mance in the field ex­panded on our ex­pec­ta­tions, demon­strat­ing, for ex­am­ple, how voice com­mands and “fol­low the leader” ca­pa­bil­ity would en­hance the robot’s abil­ity to in­ter­act with warfight­ers. We were able to put the robot through dif­fi­cult nat­u­ral ter­rain and test its abil­ity to right it­self with min­i­mal in­ter­ac­tion from hu­mans.”

Video from the test­ing shows the robot ne­go­ti­at­ing di­verse ter­rain in­clud­ing ditches, streams, wooded slopes and sim­u­lated ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments. The video also shows the map the LS3 per­cep­tion sys­tem cre­ates to de­ter­mine the path it takes.

The De­cem­ber test­ing at Fort Pick­ett is the first in a se­ries of planned demon­stra­tions that will test the robot’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties across dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments as devel­op­ment con­tin­ues through the first half of 2014.

The DARPA plat­form de­vel­oper for the LS3 sys­tem is Bos­ton Dy­nam­ics of Waltham, Mas­sachusetts.

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