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DARPA's latest footage of LS3 robodog astounds

DARPA researchers continue to add new functionality to the four-legged robot originally developed by Boston Dynamics.

Can someone give this good dog a treat before it gets cranky?

If you've never seen DARPA's version of Boston Dynamics' semi-autonomous LS3 (Legged Squad Support System) robot in action, now's a good time.

The government agency released a video yesterday that highlights one of LS3's most powerful skills: the ability to follow a leader by using computer-aided vision and GPS. In the four-minute clip, you can watch the dog-like robot following an instructor over some rough terrain -- with great ease -- in a wooded area near Fort Pickett, Va.

Activating LS3's ability to follow doesn't take much work: it merely requires a verbal command -- an option recently added to the robot. The instructor can power up or deactivate LS3 with a command spoken through a wireless communication device.

The footage also shows some newer skills acquired by the dogbot since we last wrote about it -- including enhanced roll recovery, urban environment maneuverability, and exact foot placement over rough terrain. The four-legged wonder, capable of carrying 400 pounds, easily navigates streams, ditches, and other challenging environments.

Lt. Col. Joseph Hitt, DARPA program manager, noted that this marks the first time DARPA and the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) were able to get LS3 out on the testing grounds together to simulate "military-relevant training conditions."

"The robot's performance in the field expanded on our expectations, demonstrating, for example, how voice commands and 'follow the leader' capability would enhance the robot's ability to interact with warfighters," Hitt said. "We were able to put the robot through difficult natural terrain and test its ability to right itself with minimal interaction from humans."