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Marines send robotic dog into simulated combat

Officials at DARPA say Spot will likely never see real combat, but is part of an ongoing effort to identify new roles for robots on the battlefield.

By Brooks Hays
Marines send robotic dog into simulated combat
Spot partakes in a military training exercise with Marines. Photo by U.S. Marines/Defense Media Activity

QUANTICO, Va., Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Over the last several days week, Spot, a robot dog designed by Google-owned Boston Dynamics, has been put to the test.

The four-legged robot served as a military scout in a variety of simulated combat drills at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia. Spot's initial tryout received high marks from participating Marines.

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"Spot is great and has exceeded the metrics that we've provided," Captain James Pineiro, head of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab at Quantico, said in a news release. "The Marines [working with Spot] have been very receptive to the new technology, embrace it and came up with new ideas we couldn't even dream up."

"We see it as a great potential for the future dismounted infantry," Pineiro added. "We want to continue to experiment with quadruped technology and find ways that this can be employed to enhance the Marine Corps war-fighting capabilities."

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The dog's missions included scenarios in forests, open fields and urban environs. One situation saw Spot sent into to an examine a potentially dangerous building before Marines entered. Spot can peer around corners in search of the enemy and offer immediate feedback as to the location of potential threats.

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Spot is electric-powered and hydraulically actuated. The 160-pound robot isn't entirely new, but a smaller iteration of other four-legged robots designed by Boston Dynamics and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Officials at DARPA say Spot will likely never see real combat, but is part of an ongoing effort to identify new roles for robots on the battlefield.

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Earlier this year, military engineers showed off an autonomous fighting robot. The U.S. Army also hosted a competition for bomb-defusing robots. And in June, it was announced that DARPA was teaming with a British engineering company to develop hover bikes.

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