REX Infantry Robotic Porter Follows Soldiers

The REX Infantry Robotic Porter is able to carry 200 kilograms of supplies and materiel; best of all, it can follow a small group of walking soldiers autonomously, picking its own path as it goes. It uses a hybrid electric system for silent operation, moving along at a maximum speed of about 7 miles per hour.


(Rex the robotic mule dutifully follows soldiers)

REX is designed to help groups of from three to ten ground soldiers on missions for up to 72 hours. It follows the lead soldier at a specified distance. REX responds to simple commands like "stop", "fetch", and "heel".


(Rex Infantry Robotic Porter)

In terms of functionality, REX will probably remind science fiction fans of the robass, the robotic mule, from Anthony Boucher's 1951 story The Quest for Saint Aquin. The robot was a quadruped, but it did have wheels that could be lowered and used if the road surface permitted. It could also move autonomously to get from one location to another autonomously:

the side wheels that could be lowered into action if surface conditions permitted; and above all the smooth black mound that housed the electronic brain - the brain that stored commands and data concerning ultimate objectives and made its own decisions on how to fulfill those commands in view of those data...
(Read more about Anthony Boucher's robass)

However, I'm also strongly reminded of the steel tortoise, which like REX is also an electric vehicle, that Robert Heinlein describes in his 1940 novella Coventry:

The vehicle he had chosen was not an unreasonable substitute for burros. It was extremely rugged, easy to operate, and almost foolproof. It drew its power from six square yards of sunpower screens on its low curved roof. These drove a constant- load motor, or, when halted, replenished the storage battery against cloudy weather, or night travel. The bearings were 'everlasting', and every moving part, other than the caterpillar treads and the controls, were sealed up, secure from inexpert tinkering.

It could maintain a steady six miles per hour on smooth, level pavement. When confronted by hills, or rough terrain, it did not stop, but simply slowed until the task demanded equaled its steady power output.
(Read more about Heinlein's steel tortoise)

From REX Infantry Robotic Porter (pdf) via gizmag.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/15/2009)

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