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by Jeff and Jenn Eckert
Beast of Burden Aces Field Tests
Back in January 2010, the Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency (DARPA) sent Boston Dynamics ( www.bostondynamics.
com) $32 million to put together an advanced bot, dubbed the
Legged Squad Support System (LS3). The aim was to create a highly
mobile, semi-autonomous legged robot that can carry a 400 lb load,
follow squad members through rugged terrain, and interact with
troops in the same way a trained animal works with its handler.
Right on schedule, the mechanical mule prototypes recently
were put through two weeks of field tests in the woods around Ft.
Pickett, VA. Working with folks from the Marine Corps Warfighting
Lab, researchers "demonstrated new advances in the robot's control,
stability, and maneuverability, including Leader Follow decision
making, enhanced roll recovery, exact foot placement over rough
terrain, the ability to maneuver in an urban environment, and verbal
command capability." In other words, this thing can walk around
trees, step over logs, and navigate through rough terrain of various
The contraption is pretty noisy, so it's not likely to be a good
companion when trying to sneak up on the enemy, but it will carry
a load that no backpacked soldier could ever handle. The best way
to comprehend what this thing can do is to watch the vid (search
for "LS3 Follow Tight" on You Tube), in which it does all these things
and even recovers itself after rolling over into a dry creek bed.
are slated to
first half of
8 SERVO 03.2013
Bot scans and processes 250 ppm.
High Speed Book Scanner
Those of us who have had occasion to scan
and digitize books are painfully aware of how
much time it takes to strip off the jacket and
separate the pages, load a page onto a flatbed
scanner, scan it, and repeat ad infinitum. Sure,
stack feeders can improve the process, but they
are prone to misfeeds and can't do anything about
the snail-like scan rate.
Not surprisingly, however, robotics technology
has found a way to spare us this drudgery via the
BFS-Auto book scanner, recently developed at the
University of Tokyo's Ishikawa Oku Laboratory
Perhaps the most interesting feature is that it
does not require destruction of a scanned book —
it just flips through the pages one at a time. The
software analyzes the curvature of each page at a
rate of 500 times per second, automatically
compensates for image deformation, and restores
the original image. Even at 400 ppi resolution, the
device can digitize up to 250 pages within a
No price tag was announced, and it may be
that the market for such a device is highly limited
— especially given that commercial outfits already
exist that digitize books for about a penny a page.
For high volume users like libraries and universities,
though, this might be just the thing.