Robot Horse Will Stalk You, Fall Down, Get Up, and Keep Stalking

The next logical plot twist in the long history of mechanical horses

The next logical plot twist in the long history of mechanical horses

If you were going to make a list of the "Most Awesome Robots" from the past several years, near the top of that list would probably be this: the Legged Squad Support System, or LS3 -- the horse-like automaton that DARPA has been developing with the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

If the robot looks familiar to you, it is probably because the LS3 has been around for awhile now -- the next logical plot twist in the long history of mechanical horses. And it might also be because the LS3 is -- and by this I mean no offense to the thing as a military machine -- hilarious. Those spindly legs! That awkward gallop! That determined strut! As you might say to an actual horse: WHOA.

But the team responsible for the LS3 has added an improvement to it that tilts the scales from HILARIOUS to TERRIFYING. The robotic horse now features better "Leader Follow" decision-making, meaning that it can track targets -- stalk targets -- with remarkable accuracy. The robot also has improved control, stability, and maneuverability -- including exact foot placement over rough terrain, the ability to maneuver in an (!) urban environment, and verbal command capability. Yes. The robot also has "enhanced roll recovery," a feature demonstrated at about minute 2:15 of the video above. Which is, granted, a little more hilarious than it is terrifying. Way to go, little guy.

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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