Boston Dynamics

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Boston Dynamics
HeadquartersWaltham, Massachusetts, United States
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Boston Dynamics
HeadquartersWaltham, Massachusetts, United States

Boston Dynamics is an engineering and robotics design company that is best known for the development of BigDog, a quadruped robot designed for the U.S. military with funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA),[1][2] and DI-Guy, software for realistic human simulation. Early in the company's history, it worked with the American Systems Corporation under a contract from the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) to replace naval training videos for aircraft launch operations with interactive 3D computer simulations featuring DI-Guy characters.[3]

Marc Raibert is the company's president and project manager. He spun the company off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1992.[4]

On 13 December 2013, the company was acquired by Google, where it will be managed by Andy Rubin.[5] Immediately before the acquisition, Boston Dynamics transferred their DI-Guy software product line to VT MÄK, a simulation software vendor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[6]



Main article: BigDog

BigDog is a quadrupedal robot created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics, in conjunction with Foster-Miller, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station.[7] It is funded by the DARPA[8] in the hopes that it will be able to serve as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too rough for vehicles. Instead of wheels, BigDog uses four legs for movement, allowing it to move across surfaces that would defeat wheels. Called "the world's most ambitious legged robot", it is designed to carry 340 pounds (150 kg) alongside a soldier at 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h; 1.8 m/s), traversing rough terrain at inclines up to 35 degrees.[9]

Legged Squad Support Systems (LS3) is similar to the BigDog.[10]


The Cheetah is a four-footed robot that gallops at 28 miles per hour (45 km/h; 13 m/s), which as of August 2012 is a land speed record for legged robots. The previous record was 13.1 miles per hour (21.1 km/h; 5.9 m/s), set in 1989 at MIT. Cheetah development is funded by DARPA's Maximum Mobility and Manipulation program. This robot has an articulated back that flexes back and forth on each step, thereby increasing its stride and running speed, much like the animal does. The original Cheetah robot runs on a high-speed treadmill in the laboratory where it is powered by an off-board hydraulic pump and uses a boom-like device to keep it running in the center of the treadmill. A free-running Cheetah that will operate more naturally in the field, named the WildCat, was unveiled to the public on October 3, 2013.[11]


LittleDog is a small quadruped robot developed for DARPA by Boston Dynamics for research. Unlike BigDog, which is run by Boston Dynamics, LittleDog is intended as a testbed for other institutions. Boston Dynamics maintains the robots for DARPA as a standard platform.[12][13]


RiSE is a robot that climbs vertical terrain such as walls, trees and fences, using feet with micro-claws to climb on textured surfaces. It changes posture to conform to the curvature of the climbing surface and its tail helps it balance on steep ascents. RiSE is 0.25 m long, weighs 2 kg, and travels 0.3 m/s.[14]

Each of RiSE's six legs is powered by a pair of electric motors. An onboard computer controls leg motion, manages communications, and services a variety of sensors, including joint position sensors, leg strain sensors and foot contact sensors.

Boston Dynamics developed RiSE in conjunction with researchers at University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and Lewis and Clark College. It was funded by DARPA.


SandFlea is a small robot capable of jumping 30 feet (8 m) straight up. This wheeled robot weighs 11 pounds (4.9 kg), and drives like a remote-controlled car on flat surfaces.[15]


PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin)[16] is a bipedal device constructed for testing chemical protection suits. It is the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person. Much of its technology is derived from BigDog.[17]


Legged Squad Support System (LS3), also known as AlphaDog, is a militarized version of BigDog. It is ruggedized for military use, with the ability to operate in hot, cold, wet, and dirty environments.


Main article: Atlas (robot)

The Agile Anthropomorphic Robot "Atlas" is a 6-foot (1.8 m) bipedal humanoid robot, based on Boston Dynamics' earlier PETMAN humanoid robot, and designed for a variety of search and rescue tasks.[18]


  1. ^ David Hambling, Robotic 'pack mule' displays stunning reflexes, New Scientist, 3 March 2006.
  2. ^ Innovation: The Government Was Crucial After All April 24, 2014 issue New York Review of Books
  3. ^ Sharon Foster, "Updating Technology Without Upping the Price: Boston Dynamics completes first phase of catapult trainer upgrade", (subscription required), National Defense, November 1, 2001.
  4. ^ About Boston Dynamics (2005), Retrieved on 4 July 2007.
  5. ^ "Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots", New York Times, December 14, 2013.
  6. ^ "DI-Guy Now Part of VT MÄK", Military Simulation and Training Magazine, December 11, 2013.
  7. ^ "Boston Dynamics". Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  8. ^ Markoff, John (9 April 2012). "Pentagon Contest to Develop Robots to Work in Disaster Areas". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ "BigDog - The Most Advanced Rough-Terrain Robot on Earth". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  10. ^ "Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  11. ^ "Creepy Cat Robot Can Run 16mph". Breitbart. Retrieved October 6, 2013. 
  12. ^ Greenemeier, Larry "DARPA Pushes Machine Learning with Legged LittleDog Robot", Scientific American, April 15, 2008
  13. ^ "LittleDog: The Legged Learning Robot". Accessed on October 20, 2008.
  14. ^ "RiSE: The Amazing Climbing Robot". Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  15. ^ "SandFlea - Leaps Small Buildings in a Single Bound". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2013-12-30. 
  16. ^ "PETMAN (Protection Ensemble Test Mannequin) Humanoid Military Robot". Army Technology. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 
  17. ^ Video of petman on the Boston Dynamics on YouTube
  18. ^ "Dedicated to the Science and Art of How Things Move". Boston Dynamics. Retrieved 2013-12-17. 

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