Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shades of Star Wars

I was beginning to think I had imagined this.

In the 1960's I saw a brief article about a 'Walker Truck' being developed by the army for use on rough terrain. The article went on to say the beastie could be mastered after "A few hours training" and was doing well in field trials.

I think I must have been the only person in the Texas Panhandle who read that article. No one else knew what I was talking about and I couldn't find the article again. Tonight on a whim I googled Prototype US Army Walking Truck and there it was!

The beastie was built by GE. The good news is that the engineers got it to work after fashion. The bad news is the description of training and handling was a bit exaggerated.

The driver controlled the front legs with their hands, and the rear legs with their feet. The speed was estimated at five miles an hour, but the operation was exhausting. The designer said about fifteen minutes was the usual limit.

Stability also left something to be desired. When being texted indoors it was hooked up to an overhead crane to make sure it stayed upright. Outdoors it had 'outriggers' to keep it from falling.

Cargo was a quarter ton, give or take. The beast also burned about fifty gallons and hour. All told, it was more trouble than it was worth.

One of the articles I read made an interesting point. 'Driving the walking truck was so taxing becase in the 1960's everything was manual. Today computers could correct a lot of the problems that made the walking truck such a bear.

So could computers make a walking truck managable? Consider the 'Big Dog' cargo robot. Would the walking truck be viable if the control problems were tamed?

I don't think so.


  1. (Zack says)

    Check out Big Dog's offspring... ALPHA DOG! Heh, by gosh they won't stop working on these until they have a full team of robo-mules.