If you were freaked out by the spooky Big Dog quadruped robot, you are going to love seeing it in action alongside US Army soldiers, following them like a smart giant dog.
And that's what it is: A really smart giant dog. Big Dog—which is being developed by robotics company Boston Dynamics—has some of the most advanced artificial intelligence and navigation systems in the planet. In fact, US Army officials are stunned by its programmed behaviors, which make Big Dog extremely helpful in the battlefield.
Big Dog can run along soldiers, walk slowly, or lay down to be loaded or unloaded, all while being aware of the terrain around it. No matter what happens, or how hard it's hit, the robot maintains its course like Captain America, but without falling on the ground under any circumstances. The only way to get him off its path is by a major direct hit, which could mean a rocket or President Obama's defense cuts—although, since it is low cost and not a Cold War-era weapon, it probably will survive the crisis.
Even while they are not yet ready for actual battlefield action, the US Army has high hopes for this beast. They see it as the most effective way to carry all kinds of material, reducing the weight that soldiers have to tug along, freeing them to move faster and be safer.
Right now, they only need to make Big Dogs quieter—they still buzz like a billion angry bees—and increase their autonomy. If there are no unforeseen problems, they will get into the battlefields in just a few years.
With drones now taking over the skies, it's only a matter of time before a Big Dog 2.0 arrives. In fact, many analysts are already pointing at the possibility of bi-pedal robots fighting alongside soldiers or replacing them entirely. Science fiction authors have imagined this scenario many times, from Terminator to Metal Gear Solid 4, in which "geckos"—the two-leg Velociraptor-like fighting robots shown in this video—are clearly inspired by Big Dog's biological design.
For all the technological terror they inspire among anyone who sees them, however, they can't match the hilarious spoof that some troupe did a while ago. Sadly, the idea of Big Dogs, Terminators, or "geckos" taking over the battlefield—or the world—is not funny at all.