By Jeremy Hsu, TechNewsDaily

The four-legged LS3 robot follows soliders around, and can carry 400 pounds of equipment. Credit: Boston Dynamics

A four-legged U.S. military robot carrying 400 pounds of equipment has

shown how it can play "follow the leader" in a manner similar to a

trained mule or horse. Like an animal, it can also regain its feet after

an accidental tumble in the woods.

The Legged Squad Support System (LS3) robot has evolved into a quieter beast compared to earlier four-legged "BigDog" or "AlphaDog" robots

that sounded like runaway lawnmowers or chainsaw-armed Terminators. The

latest LS3 version represents the U.S. military's best hope for a

robotic helper that can carry combat loads across rough terrain for

soldiers or Marines.

A new video by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

demonstrates how the robot obeys a verbal command by a human researcher:

"LS3 follow tight."

TOP 5: New Military Robots

Several camera shots show the LS3 robot ambling after its human leader

like an overlarge, clumsy puppy trying to keep up with an owner. At one

point the robot takes a tumble and rolls almost comically down a slope

before regaining its feet.

DNEWS VIDEO: Flying Car To Help Soldiers

The video also shows the robot, made by Boston Dynamics, trotting

along more briskly in a manner vaguely reminiscent of high-stepping

horse. The robot succeeded in navigating ditches, streams, wooded slopes

and mock-urban environments during the field testing by DARPA and the

Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.

U.S. Marines have already spent months working with robotic helicopters

capable of delivering supplies to outposts or frontline troops. A

robotic mule could serve different, if equally useful, purposes for

squads on patrol.

PHOTOS: I Am Ironman

DARPA envisions the robot acting like a mobile recharging station for

U.S. troops to recharge pounds of batteries used in radios and handheld

mobile devices. The Marines have already experimented with  using

renewable energy sources such as portable solar panels to replace some

of the batteries they carry.

But the LS3 robot's greatest potential use comes from carrying some of

the combat equipment that soldiers might normally have to carry

themselves. The heavy burden of combat loads averaging close to 100 pounds per soldier has already taken a serious health toll on both active troops and returning veterans.

You can follow TechNewsDaily Senior Writer Jeremy Hsu on Twitter @jeremyhsu. Follow TechNewsDaily on Twitter @TechNewsDaily, or on Facebook.

  • Military’s ‘BigDog’ Robot Learns to Follow | Video

  • Seven Sci-Fi Weapons from Tomorrow Are Here Today

  • 10 Animal-Inspired Robots

Copyright 2012 TechNewsDaily, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.