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Robomule Rex follows soldiers, voice commands

Will orders for Israel Aerospace Industries' six-wheel robotic "beast of burden," designed to carry 440 pounds of foot soldiers' stuff for 72 hours sans refueling, roll in?

The Rex is designed to take a huge load off of foot soldiers' shoulders.
Israel Aerospace Industries

"Fetch" and "heel" may be the latest commands to join the military lexicon, with the arrival of Rex, a small, six-wheel-drive load-bearing robotic vehicle designed to follow squad-size units in response to voice commands.

Envisioned as a robotic "beast of burden" for the modern soldier, Rex can carry more than 400 pounds, a typical load for groups of 3 to 10 ground soldiers, for 72 hours at a time without refueling, according to developer Israel Aerospace Industries.

"The robotic vehicle follows the lead soldier from a given distance, utilizing technology developed and patented by IAI. Using simple commands (one might give his pet dog), including 'stop,' 'fetch,' and 'heel,' the lead soldier controls the robot without being distracted from the mission at hand," IAI's Ofer Glazer said. "Controlling the robot in this way allows for intuitive interaction and rapid integration of the product on the field within a short time frame."

IAI says it developed the platform in response to "an urgent operational need," estimating that military and civil demand could amount to tens of thousands of orders, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The Rex platform is unique in its state-of-the-art operational capabilities and its user-friendly interface, both of which are central to the platform's superior performance," Glazer boasted.

Rex is but one of the robocaddies appearing on the military market. Aimed at infantryman, it's unclear whether these present-day pack mules may take a load off the grunt or just end up as more junk to haul--and ultimately leave behind.