A robot developed for the U.S. Marines was shelved because it’s too noisy for combat.
Boston Dynamics, which is owned by Google parent company Alphabet, developed the robot, which would be used as a mule to carry gear. Viral videos showed the robot lumbering through the woods. It was funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
“As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential, possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” Kyle Olson, a spokesman for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com. “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.”
Some compared the sound the robot made to an angry swarm of bees.
There were also issues with repairing the robot if it broke down. Also, there were issues on how to implement the robot mule into Marine patrol.
DARPA then built a quieter robot known as Spot, which can carry around 40 pounds, which isn’t enough to help, as one official noted.
“I see Spot right now as more of a ground reconnaissance asset,” Capt. James Pineiro, the Ground Combat Element branch head for the Warfighting Lab, told Military.com.
He added: “The problem is, Spot in its current configuration doesn’t have the autonomy to do that. It has the ability to walk in its environment, but it’s completely controller-driven.” Both robots have been retired for now — with no plans for future development. Other unmanned vehicles and drones are still being experimented with in the lab, although the focus is shifting to resupply and reconnaissance roles rather than the front line.”
It’s also not clear how Spot might be repaired if it broke down in the field.
According to the Military.com report, both AlphaDog, or LS3, and Spot have been put on hold for the time being.
A spokesperson with the Marines told NBC News that the Marines will try to explore using the robots as they see “necessity of autonomous, unmanned, and robotic capabilities” and could offer Marines a “tactical edge through technological overmatch.”