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The BigDog robot leads the pack

15 May 2013  | Steve Taranovich

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A spin-off of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston Dynamics, develops robots that magnify or improve human and animal capabilities to perform awe-inspiring tasks. These robots move with the strength and agility of animals. They can also change shape to navigate in tight spaces or climb walls.

We would like to focus upon one of these creations, BigDog. The robot is a four-legged, three feet tall, three feet long, 109kg dog-like robot that can manoeuvre up a muddy slope and carry a 154kg load.

BigDog anatomy

Figure 1: Fifty sensors feed into a computer to help maintain balance and direction of the robot (Credit: Boston Dynamics).

Go-kart engine

A 11kW go-kart engine, comprised of a two-stroke/one cylinder, water-cooled operation, powers a hydraulic system that operates the legs. The leg design was fashioned by designers after large mammal's natural movements.

BigDog leg design

Figure 2: The robot leg design was fashioned by designers after large mammal’s natural movements. (Credit: Concord Field Station Harvard University).


Fifty sensors feed into a computer to help maintain balance and direction as well as helping the robot recover in the event of a fall or being forced off its intended course.

BigDog external functions

Figure 3: BigDog key external functions are critical to its performance (Credt: Boston Dynamics).

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