Ever since I watched Terminator 2 as a child, I’ve been a fan of robots. I don’t quite enjoy them as much as the Japanese people do, but they’re definitely at the top of my list for future purchases. While not exactly a robot in the traditional bipedal sense, this new robotic “pack mule” from our favorite military branch, DARPA, is turning heads. Not only can the LS3 carry hundreds of pounds worth of equipment over long distances, but it also looks and sounds unreasonably scary.
The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) has been under development by DARPA for quite some time, but according to a recent press release, they’ve made a significant amount of progress since they announced the program last year. The LS3 is now capable of differentiating between between trees, rocks, obstacles and people, and it will soon have a set of highly sensitive robotic ears as well. If DARPA’s progress continues as planned, the LS3 will even be capable of accepting basic voice commands, such as “stop”, “sit”, or “come here”. Like I said, it’s basically a giant, creepy robotic dog.
DARPA’S Legged Squad Support System (LS3) in Action
I’m not quite sure what’s scarier, the buzzing, lawnmower like sounds emanating from the LS3, or its eerily natural gait. The LS3 somehow manages to look cute and murderous at the same time. As I watch it stumble around like an endearingly clumsy Bambi, I’m reminded that this seemingly benign robotic pack mule could one day be equipped with twin M61 Vulcan rotary cannons or any other number of insane military-grade weaponry.
DARPA hasn’t released an exact time frame for the LS3’s integration into live military operations, but they are kicking off an 18 month refinement cycle starting this summer. We can only hope that one of the testers decides to take this thing to an off-leash dog park and record people’s reactions.