After watching the video, I don't see how this robot is so quiet that soldiers can walk next to it and actually hear each other. Further, how is this not a detriment to them in the field. Wouldn't it draw enemy attention?
I have to agree with you, Jenn, on the whole issue of being loud and attracting attention. But what really stood out to me is how much this robot looks and moves like some sort of bull or similar type of animal. Just watching the leg movements and its path out of the bushes had me waiting for some sort of predator animal to come out of nowhere and bounce. The biomickry in terms of stature and movement was really quite compelling.
It's still a prototype -- it'll get quieter before it sees any deployment in the field. And even at its current noise level, it could still be useful. There are a lot of situations where stealth is less important than fatigue and logistics: long road marches, street patrols similar to what US troops were doing in Bagdhad until recently, etc. Even a noisy pack mule could help troops carry more with less fatigue, and if the troops hit a point where they think the mule's noise becomes a liability, they still have the option to stash the mule and carry the gear themselves.
This device definitely will have a usefulness for troops; its agility is amazing. I leave you with a sobriquet on the use of mules in war: http://www.pbs.org/weta/reportingamericaatwar/reporters/pyle/waskow.html
I didn't see anything about payload in there, Even with the noise leve, this could be useful for getting items from one area to another where air transport isn't really available, but they're not trying to sneak up on anybody either. In addition, I wondering if the payload is such that it could be adapted as an emergency rescue vehicle. If a small group was camped out someplace with one of these and somebody got injured, could they climb on in and get carried out while the rest of the team does whatever they need to do (e.g., shoot back)?
Jack, from what I've read and reported about Boston Robotics' pack animal creations, they're not designed to carry anything as heavy as a human. For that, you want the BEAR: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=247687
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