The Marines Are Building Headless, Robotic Pack Mules. Here's a Better Idea.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 21 2013 1:22 PM

The Marines Are Building Headless, Robotic Pack Mules. Here's a Better Idea.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal has a fun riff on the U.S. military’s Legged Squad Support System, a headless robotic pack horse that can “carry 400 pounds of a squad’s load, follow squad members through rugged terrain, and interact with troops in a natural way, similar to a trained animal and its handler.” Madrigal’s take:

Its headless form has always disturbed me in its ... headlessness. (Like, did Haruki Murakami design these things in a fever dream? Robots galloping across the plains.)

I like the Murakami analogy. No doubt these things are creepy. I mean, watch this and tell me you're not at least a little freaked out: 

On the other hand, Boston Dynamics apparently took 30 months and $32 million to build this thing. I wonder what DARPA and the Marines would say if I told them that I personally could procure for them an autonomous legged support system that is just as strong, more maneuverable, requires less maintenance, and runs on much cheaper fuel—all for less than one-ten-thousandth of the price?

Now, if I could just think of a cool, futuristic-sounding name for this technology so I could get some buzz from the tech blogs …

Previous coverage of DARPA robots in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.



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