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"Every scientist worth his salt that I know of has read science fiction."
- Greg Bear

Robass  
  A robotic beast of burden.  

It looked harmlessly like a woodpile sheltered against possible rain. Thomas pulled off the skins and contemplated the sleek functional lines of the robass. Smiling, he stowed his minimal gear into its panniers and climbed into the foam saddle. The starlight was bright enough so he could check the necessary coordinates on his map and feed the data into the electronic controls...

Thomas had never ridden a robass before, but he was inclined, within their patent limitations, to trust the works of the Technarchy. After several miles had proved that the coordinates were duly registered, he put up the foam backrest... and went to sleep.

From The Quest for Saint Aquin, by Anthony Boucher.
Published by Holt in 1951
Additional resources -

Here are some additional details:

He... took his first opportunity to inspect the robass in full light. He admired the fast-plodding, articulated legs, so necessary since roads had degenerated... 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...
Thanks to Mark for contributing this item.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Quest for Saint Aquin
  More Ideas and Technology by Anthony Boucher
  Tech news articles related to The Quest for Saint Aquin
  Tech news articles related to works by Anthony Boucher

Robass-related news articles:
  - MULE Autonomous Navigation Vehicle By Lockheed Martin
  - BigDog Robass More Coordinated Than I Am
  - Lrry-1 Fire-Breathing, Riding MechaDog Video
  - LittleDog Robot Has Dynamic Double-Support Gait
  - KITECH And POSTECH Korean Quadruped Robots
  - Legged Squad Support System Monster BigDog Robot
  - 'Robotic Mule' Ready For Duty, Sir
  - AlphaDog Proto Stronger, Quieter Than BigDog
  - HyQ Four-Legged Robot From Italy
  - DARPA LS3 Robot Pack Animal Video

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Military Tech Inside Your Roomba?
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