BigDog Throwing Cinder Blocks


It’s as if giving cheetah-like speed to an advanced robot wasn’t good enough. The engineers over at Boston Dynamics must have been thinking to themselves, how can we make this thing even more menacing? The answer seems to be adding a highly dexterous articulated arm that gives the robot the ability to chuck objects as heavy as cinder blocks. We’re not kidding, look at the image above and you’ll see one mid-flight in the upper left. A quick search tells us that block probably weighs 30 pounds!

BigDog is a research project for the US military that we’ve seen navigating all kinds of terrain. It’s a heavy lifter able to carry loads where other machinery cannot. But now they’ve added an appendage that reminds us of an elephant’s trunk. It branches off of BigDog’s body where a quadruped’s neck would be. At the end of the appendage is a gripper that looks much like what you’d seen on industrial assembly robots. But enough talk, click through to see the action video. Oh, and if you didn’t pick up on the cheetah reference we made earlier you’ll want to check out this post.

[Thanks John]

70 thoughts on “BigDog Throwing Cinder Blocks

      1. I never understood how Uncanny Valley only applies to human-like things.

        The uncanny feeling clearly applies to anything that feels familiar but a little off. I have always found these Boston Dynamics dog robots really really creepy because of how similar to a dog they are, particularly when they have the cover on it’s legs.

      1. Robots mounting things to establish dominance is a scarier thought than robots with guns.

        It also would have made the Terminator movies target an entirely different audience.

    1. No. Next up: small children, then young adults, then full-grown ones, then fully-equipped combat soldiers, then family vehicles, then fully-loaded family vehicles, then armoured personnel carriers, tanks, etc.

      1. What, an RTG? Radioisotope thermal generator? RTGs don’t put out much power, maybe a couple of hundred watts (off the top of my head). but they do supply power for decades.

        That’s exactly the opposite of what this… thing… needs. It needs short bursts of high power. Or longer bursts of high power. Plus isn’t there a law against sending uranium into warzones (hahaha! I kill me!)?

        Has it occurred to anyone you could end terrorism from the Middle East by just giving them the billions all this hardware costs? They’re some of the world’s poorest countries. Build them nice houses and infrastructure, give them a nice standard of living. Way cheaper than trying to protect every single soldier’s life, when there’s improvised bombs all over the place. And the people would actually LIKE you for it!

        Actually this idea has occurred to lots of people. Obviously it’s wrong and insane or they’d have done it by now.

          1. Our culture won’t accept stuff such as homosexuality. As far as women and most minorities are concerned the west has only begun to try and we are a far cry from equality. My friend didn’t get a job as a bartender because his “tits weren’t big enough” (employer’s words) so that particular bar hires women based on breast size not ability.

            Your use of the word ‘they’ is pretty much case in point whether you are referring to Muslims or the Middle-East both can be easily be considered culturally diverse. There is no right side; there are good men, bad men, and ignorant men on every side.

            @Greenaum: Of course it’s insane to give the Middle East money before you completely destroy their neighborhoods and infrastructure. First spend billions blowing it up then billions more rebuilding! Poorest countries my ass…. Saudi; Emirate; Qatar; Kuwait; Bahrain? Most of the terrorists of the ‘you know when’ hijacking were Saudi. (Granted I don’t think any of those countries have a middle class)

        1. Given how much Europe and America have been screwing with the Middle East for a long time. (They still have accurate verbal histories going back to the crusades, and are still a little wary about them) I think the only thing that would work would be to stop stirring the pot. Unfortunately, they have plenty of stuff we want/need and there are enough people willing to continue stirring to get it.

          Completely off topic Rant over.

        2. We actually tried that during the Cold War.

          The result was the first decade of the 21st century(and to a large degree, the last decade of the 20th, which was merely not as reported on), so it’s safe to say giving them even more money would only make things worse.

    1. Army already field tested big dog, but without the head throwing blocks though.
      Pus they only show snippets since it’s all semi-classified too.

      I can see the reason for your cynicism since there are many project where the thing never becomes standalone, but it seems the boston dynamics stuff does become real products and aren’t the eternally in laboratory kind that can only work tethered.

    1. It’s an active balance system. By ‘trotting’ it can avoid overloading itself as the dynamic load shifts. The legs can move about a lot quicker and easier to cope with it. Also, it’s the same basic physics as it uses when walking, and so likely already coded. A standing throw would require a new balance control program.

      1. It seems to me it has nothing to do with hydraulics and everything to do with not being able to calculate the hyperstatic balance of the system. The hydraulic legs would hold the thing up just fine, but they don’t know how much pressure to apply and where to keep it stable.

        So they simplify the problem by putting two legs down and seeing which way it starts to fall, then countering that by putting the other two legs down and seeing where it falls next.

          1. The above explanation is absolutely correct. ( Dynamic Balancing was pioneered at the MIT Leg Lab. I actually got to see a number of these robots (not in action) when I was a kid; a grad student in that lab took my brother and I on a tour of it. It remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

            The grad student was working on something called “swarm robotics.”

          2. It’s actually a hard problem to solve. A robot can be made stable if you know exactly where the center of mass is at any time, but since they’re throwing cinderblocks of indetermined weight through a trajectory that isn’t precisely known, they don’t know where the center of gravity for the whole thing is and how it will react to force.

            All they can do is wait and see as it starts to keel over, and that problem is simplified if you only have two legs down at a time because it forms a well defined fulcrum that the mass pivots around, which tells you where the center of gravity is.

  1. well this must be proof of an alternate parallel universe; i’ve seen this movieclip about a year a go, interesting so the world is apparently not completely synced. That’s delicious food for quantum physicist. And pretty cheap science too, i didnt use satellite or LHC, worse i did not even use any fund to get to my conclusion ..and i did it for free :(

  2. looks like they still havent gotten the power down yet (yeah they had it powered before by an internal combustion engine but since then they made it run like 70mph and chuck cinder blocks…also that motor is ridiculously loud and annoying, they need a better motor)

    also an army of these on the ground and drones in the air…horrifying…

  3. Not so sure what’s so impressive about tossing a cinder block 15-20 feet. Your average working man & some working working women can do that, a whole lot faster. Do that with a concrete block,then you may have something.

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