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    DARPA's Big Dog Just Got Violent (And More Useful)

    Written by

    Adam Clark Estes

    The DARPA-funded robotic dog that Boston Dynamics has been building for the past couple of years was scary enough when it was just running around. Big Dog looks like a tank with legs. It can run around and climb hills in an astounding fashion. It's cousin, Cheetah, can run faster than any human being on Earth. And Big Dog is voice-controlled now, so soldiers can just bark orders to it on the battlefield and send it sprinting through a shower of bullets to deliver a package or whatever.

    Obviously, the military was going to want to weaponize this at some point.

    They just did! Big Dog didn't get a gun or a laser or anything like that, though. It got a really strong arm, and somehow that's more startling. When I first heard about this new armed Big Dog device, I just assumed it would use the arm to pick up sticks or break glass or something. Nope. It throws cinder blocks across warehouses. 

    Neither DARPA nor Boston Dynamics offered much information about Big Dog or its new arm. The implications seem pretty sweeping, though. The very sophisticated machine they built to be a mule is now being weaponized. Or at least it's been something capable of doing damage. Judging by the sound of those cinder blocks hitting the ground, that damage sounds painful.

    On the other hand, this new arm is a pretty handy feature. Since it's strong enough to throw a cinder block, then it's also strong enough to move trees out of trails or pull big pieces of debris off wounded soldiers or even move cinder blocks into place when rebuilding a village. Honestly, if the military really wanted to make Big Dog a death machine they could. Remember the laser idea?