Spot on point: the Boston Dynamics robot prepares to enter a structure as a scout for Marines in an urban combat drill.
4 more images in gallery
In a series of drills this week, the Marine Corps tested whether a new four-legged companion had what it takes to work with infantrymen in a variety of situations. The subject of the tests was Boston Dynamics' Spot robot, a 160-pound, hydraulicly actuated quadruped robot first revealed by the Google (soon to be Alpahbet) subsidiary in February.
Spot was brought to the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, home of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, by a team from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA has tested a number of previous robots from Boston Dynamics, including the BigDog quadruped robot, with the Marine Corps. Ben Swilling, a roboticist with DARPA who accompanied Spot for the tests, said "I think a robot like Spot has tons of opportunities we could use it for, like scouting or load carriage."
The Corps has also tested autonomous vehicles, such as the GUSS from TORC Robotics, and other robotic systems for support of infantry in the field. But Spot is both lighter and quieter than most of the other systems that have been tested, and can handle terrain that autonomous vehicles or even the pack mule-like BigDog can't.