I love puppies--especially when they're stone-cold machines that will stop at nothing to carry out their mission. LittleDog is one such charmer.
The unholy offspring of Boston Dynamics' BigDog, the slightly odd robot pack animal, LittleDog is a DARPA-funded robot platform for studying quadruped locomotion. Of course, the ultimate goal is military applications; think of it as Aibo's hunter-killer cousin.
Researchers at the University of Southern California's Computational Learning & Motor Control Lab have taught the 5-inch-tall pup some better walking skills using techniques from machine learning. The USC locomotion controller lets LittleDog walk over very rocky terrain and haul itself up wide steps without setting a paw wrong. It can also get over holes as wide as the length of its leg, as seen in the video below.
The controller makes the robot learn where to place its feet by examining a human demonstration of walking carefully over difficult ground. It then extrapolates this information and uses it on novel terrain. The approach is also flexible enough for the machine to tackle seesawing ground and other unforeseen obstacles. … Read more