Image via Boston Dynamics
We should have just assumed by the rate technology was advancing that we'd live to see the day when those robot walkers from Star Wars were actually developed for the military. After all, we've got drones flying over Afghanistan piloted by men in New Mexico with X-box controllers. So why not an all-terrain robotic mule that can carry 400 lbs, provide a power source, and aid in combat operations? Boston Dynamics was just awarded $32 million to develop exactly that. And CleanTechnica reports that it may have some green uses to boot.A Green Star Wars-y Robot Walker?
The initial plans are to have the robot walker, called the LS3, run on a conventional combustion engine, but that hybrid electric power "may be in the mix". But Cleantechnica offers a run down on the slew of other improvements in energy efficiency that the walker would bring:
Along with carrying freight the LS3 could also serve as a mobile auxiliary power generator to recharge batteries in the field. That could provide a gain for energy efficiency by reducing the need to transport conventional field generators. TARDEC (the army's vehicle research agency) is developing a Tactical Hybrid Electric Power Station that can switch between diesel, sun, wind, and battery storage, so it's also possible that LS3-like combat robots may eventually draw more on renewable energy than on fossil fuels.
Robot Walkers are Cool and All, but . . .
Now, I'm not as optimistic as CT that this will yield too many sustainable benefits. For one thing it further mechanizes American military operations and expands their capacity, as well as helps perpetuate the military-industrial complex. And the robots will require an unknown amount of resources to produce. All of which should probably put acquiring a giant robot walker somewhere nearer to the bottom of our agenda at the moment.
CT does mention that the thing could have useful private sector value, like perhaps aiding in repairing water mains or carrying out humanitarian missions. And at least they'll maybe spare a couple pack mules from the line of fire in military operations.
But still, nobody's talking about the real concern here: it brings us one step closer to the day when we're going to have to do battle with a massive army of scary robots that have inevitably turned on us, their former masters. And nobody wants that.