I posted the following a few minutes ago to a vertebrate paleontology list that
I participate in, and I thought that the list might enjoy the video that I
mention in the posting as well.

Wirt Atmar

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In a burst of youthful enthusiasm 32 years ago, when I founded AICS
Research, the "AICS" stood for "Artificially Intelligent Cybernetic Systems." We
long ago tired of explaining what that phrase meant so we condensed the
name to simply AICS. Over time, we moved away from robotics and became
primarily a software supplier to Hewlett-Packard and their customers, butthe
original intention was to design and build self-learning, biologically-inspired
autonomous mechanisms.

With that introduction, let me show you this video and simultaneously express
my admiration for what the people at Boston Dynamics have been able to
accomplish. This 3 minute video clip was released just a few days ago:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1czBcnX1Ww

The clip is of "BigDog." It is at once eminently reminiscent of naturallyevolved
locomotion and at the same time enormously unsettling in its alienness.

BigDog has a gasoline engine to power the hydraulic system acuators that act
as its musculature. Proprioception is accomplished by angle and pressure
sensors located at every joint and foot pad, and the CNS is encephalized in a
central CPU, which also processes visual and equilibrium inputs as well.

The end result is quite impressive.

Like most work of this kind, it is funded by the US military, in this case, the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), but DARPA is lot more
willing to fund flights of fancy than any of the civilian research granting
agencies and at much higher dollar amounts, and a lot of good work does
eventually come out their efforts. The internet was one of their funded
projects.

Wirt Atmar

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