Boston Dynamics – More Canine Than Canine

The Tyrell Corporation’s shiver-inducing slogan was “More human than human”. Powerful, yes, but Boston Dynamics will not be outdone! “The Leader in Lifelike Human Simulation” leaves no room for speculation – you want the best, you go to Boston Dynamics, buster.

The video you are about to watch is of BigDog – a rough terrain canine simulator so powerful and elegant, it might make you fall in love and prove a cute thing doesn’t need a fluffy tail, big eyeballs [or a head for that matter], or a LOL-caption to be adored.

BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog’s legs are articulated like an animal’s, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next. BigDog is the size of a large dog or small mule, measuring 1 meter long, 0.7 meters tall and 75 kg weight. BigDog has an on-board computer that controls locomotion, servos the legs and handles a wide variety of sensors. BigDog’s control system manages the dynamics of its behavior to keep it balanced, steer, navigate, and regulate energetics as conditions vary.

– Boston Dynamics

Sit back and enjoy. At 00:39 is an impressive kicking demo. Keep watching, as this mecha-pup slips on ice and catches itself just like a real animal, but better. Carrying a load of 340 lbs it manages to keep from falling and soldier on until the mission is complete.

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27 Responses to “Boston Dynamics – More Canine Than Canine”

  1. mildred Says:

    Nadya and I had a discussion about this video yesterday. Something about this thing upsets me on a deeply primal level. Nadya thought it was cute.

    I will concede, however, that it is all manner of amazing. Consider me compelled and (unjustifiably) revolted.

  2. Nadya Says:

    Whoa! Mil and I were just talking about that video yesterday!

    I actually think that it’s really cute. I love that little trot! :)
    I felt bad when that guy kicked it!

  3. joshua Says:

    i concur with mildred on this one. i think it’s profoundly disturbing. like something out of a nightmare, even.

  4. Zoetica Says:

    Mil and Joshua – I suppose that’s the Uncanny Valley effect.

    I wonder who else is disturbed by it, what the ratio of cute vs. unsettling is!

  5. Nadya Says:

    I get the whole uncanny valley thing, but I think it only applies to human-like things with me.

  6. the daniel Says:

    You think it’s disturbing now, wait until a dozen of them are breaking up your rave with rubber bullets and tear gas.

  7. Zoetica Says:

    Indeed, Nadya. It’s is how I felt about that hideous monstrosity of a robo-child. THAT, I wanted to kick.

  8. Zeldyn Says:

    It’s the noise it makes that terrifies me so. Still, modern robotics continues to astound me everyday. As someone who used to build primitive ones, I can really appreciate this even if it is scary as all hell.

  9. Zoetica Says:

    [has a great time imagining us all at a rave]

  10. Camilla Taylor Says:

    I got so irrationally mad at the man who kicked it.

  11. Zoetica Says:

    Camilla, me too! He just comes out of nowhere and BAM. Rr.

  12. gooby Says:

    It was funny to have a discussion about Big Dog at my work, a geeky discussion from a bunch of animators taking apart its awkward gate, but then once it stumbled or was kicked, it all of the sudden became some living panicking critter.

    Made us wonder if its that uncertainty and constant fluctuation that makes us all look and move in what we consider a “realistic” way in our field, and to the other end, why confident repetitive movement always seems awkward and mechanical.

    In feeling bad for robots when they get “hurt”, my heart broke when I saw this Asimo footage:

  13. Sterlingspider Says:

    I found it funny that I cringed when it slipped and hit it’s “knee” at one point.

    I found it doubly funny that *even after* having decided I was silly to feel bad for the bruises of a thing without flesh, I cringed again when it slipped on the cinder block and did what would have taken a good layer of shin with it if it were me.

    I am however particularly known for my powers of anthropomorphism and ability to find the most utterly horrific things cute.

  14. Nina Says:

    Zeldyn, I second that. With the sound turned off I thought it was cute. With the sound turned on it scares me to no end.

  15. James Shearhart Says:

    After I got over the uncanny-ness, and convinced myself that it was, indeed, not a pair of guys clenching in a rugby scrum with a tarp thrown over them, the first thing I thought was Gladiatorial Combat. With chainsaws and lasers.

  16. Skerror Says:

    “Indeed, Nadya. It’s is how I felt about that hideous monstrosity of a robo-child. THAT, I wanted to kick.”

    Somebody showed me this video the other day, and my first thought was an army of robo-children riding BigDogs like some bizarro LOTR goblin wolf riders.

    LOL…when the guy kicks it he goes from top-tier scientist/engineer to typical trashy, drunken, dogbeating asshole in less than a second. We’re going to have such complex emotional relationships with these things…

  17. Dahl Says:

    My heartstrings got a fierce pulling when it got kicked. That emotion probably disturbs me more than the thing itself. It looked so dorky as it slipped on the ice too, but I really shouldn’t be assigning a personality to something without a brain.

  18. Tequila Says:

    How very Metal Gear Solid…odd how I too felt bad when it got kicked. Though once these things carry their weapon loadouts I’m sure we’ll all run in terror.

    Imagine what this tech can be used for in terms of artificial limbs? Better still…artificial keg carrying machines. Frat boys will love em! Sales to them alone would cover the R&D costs.

    These ill feelings about it being harmed do highlight the problems with making robotic devices look too human or natural…it’s all well and good if we’re talking about making mechanical pets but in this case how healthy is it to blur the line between man & machine for devices we’ll use as slaves?

  19. Skerror Says:

    @Tequila…”it’s all well and good if we’re talking about making mechanical pets but in this case how healthy is it to blur the line between man & machine”

    Maybe by the time they reach us consumers, they’re going to be all rounded white plastic iRobots. Somebody looking to make a buck will come up with a way to jump over our moralizing. They’ll probably start in with making status symbols of the new slavebots right away as well. “Don’t be a chump who buys generic “helper”bot (they’ll have a way sexier focus-group tested name than that)…buy elite helperbot 2.0” Then a million people go, “ZOMG did you see that the new helperbot has a built in mp3 player and I can put my own skins on it? I want one!” Hopefully we’ll be out of this free market mess by the time the robots get released and we’ll be having serious discussions about the robots the way proper citizens do.

    Mwahaha…I look forward to the day when we’ll see a news report about a frat boy getting “neutralized” for trying to wrestle with the keg stand.

  20. gdholtby Says:

    the buzzing sound is going to haunt my dreams

  21. Jerem Morrow Says:

    LOVE this more every time I see it.

    p.s. You guys are watching this (, aren’t you?

  22. tymcode Says:

    Dangit. I had this email flagged for the past few days to remind me to submit it here. Oh well. I lag, someone else gets the glory.

    I do want them to put giant eyes and an extra pair of legs to make it into a buzzing hellbeast. Imagine the military applications.

    I would love to be a tester on this project. Just kicking it looked very satisfying. One odd feeling I had was one of satisfaction whenever it faltered; “Ha! It slipped!” Followed immediately by the realization that I would have, too.

  23. Alice Says:

    The sounds ARE utterly terrifying, but it’s lope as it moves makes it endearing…not to mention the fact that my “OH MY GOD DON’T HURT THE PUPPY!” feelings were flaring when that nasty fellow kicked it…

  24. Vivacious G Says:

    Neat, reminds me of original Star Wars movies contraptions (I guess that’s the obvious observation). It definitely loses sneak attack points with the noise though.

  25. Seanny Boy Says:

    The photo you posted is slightly less disconcerting, but the video still looks like something out of The Fly. I wouldn’t want it chasing me through the woods.

  26. joshua Says:

    just to prove a point:

    the similarity between “big dog” and this painting by beksinski, posted on yr own site, is uncanny.


  27. Paul Komoda Says:

    Oh, the things that make me happy, these days. I love how nimble that thing is.
    I’d seen this a few years back, and visually, it brought to mind two performers in black leotards hoisting around the carriage of the body in an inverted pantomime-horse configuration….Mummenshanz style.

    It’s right up there with that amphibious snake robot for coolness: