Behold! Our new mascot

From Boston Dynamics: "Sand Flea is an 11-lb robot with one trick up its sleeve: Normally it drives like an RC car, but when it needs to it can jump 30 feet into the air. An onboard stabilization system keeps it oriented during flight to improve the view from the video uplink and to control landings. Current development of Sand Flea is funded by the The US Army's Rapid Equipping Force."


  1. The coolest thing ever, until hordes of them are chasing you down in our robot controlled dystopian near future, boinging all over the place.

    1.  Note to self: 30 ft. high tree fort is no longer robot proof.  Adjust plans accordingly.

    2. My only hope is that once they’ve been manufactured in vast numbers to ensure our destruction the hackers can viral program them to deliver us hot dogs and strawberry milk in our secret tree fort terminator-proof strongholds.

    3. Negotiations with Valve to license the appropriate headcrab sounds and distinctive trade dress are ongoing.

    4. All they need are fishhook talons and flesh ripping mandibles. 

      I recall a panel from a comic by Spain where a guy is being disemboweled by a 2 ft fly.

    1. There could be a sacrificial plate on the top and bottom, gets dropped, jump legs use that as a surface.  Not perfect, but could work…   or the plate is on a string and somehow travels and retracts mid-jump?

  2. I always get mildly amazed by these cool new technologies, only to be followed by that stingy, sour notion of them always being apart of programs funded by the military. The F-35 program comes to mind. The scepticism, critique is diminished over the false feeling of national pride.

    We don’t care where it comes from, where it ends up, we just like the shiny thing before our eyes and think nothing else of it. What if national defense as we label it, wasn’t given ridicolous budgets and resources and were instead focused on improving civilian fields. Fields that would give actual returns.

    I know, crazy right?

    1. What, you mean like the Internet? That IS crazy.

      Lots of my physicist friends in grad school were funded via the DOD. Often times what they were working on was only marginally related to any ostensible military purpose. A lot of basic physics research gets picked up by the DOD, because physics is just kind of seen as their purview – other things like ORNL and Livermore that DO have military applications are funded this way, so I guess they figure it makes sense to keep all that expertise in-house. Meanwhile, me in the biology department got all my government funding via NSF/NIH, because that’s seen as THEIR purview. So the fact that funding comes from the DOD doesn’t necessarily mean it’s meant to produce a weapon or anything relevant to the battlefield; it might just be an administrative thing.

      That said, the DOD has a ton of research funding, and they definitely DO use a lot of it for funding battlefield-relevant research, including Boston Dynamics. It always made me sad that BD needed to get DOD funds to make cool robots (especially since I have friends who work there), and that a lot of these technologies might, indeed, eventually be weaponized, so it’s not inconceivable that a Big Dog chases you down and riddles you with bullets. That, however, seems to be the sad reality of it: if you want to make cool robots, the only people with the money to throw around at such ridiculous concepts are the masters of war. And now that we’ve had such great success killing people with flying robot drones, it seems inevitable that this is the way military development will go. Expect more killer robots in the future.

  3. Boston Dynamics makes the most lovable cast of robots.  I want to see a children’s book about the Adventures of Big Dog and Sand Flea.

    1. I’m imagining a series of shorts revolving around the two characters(Berenstain bears style; but less played out) that starts out being really lighthearted (Big Dog and Sand Flea visit the laboratory!) moves into the slightly-too-naive-to-not-be-creepy (Big Dog and Sand Flea at the Trade Show, Big Dog plays at the Proving Grounds), and eventually dives headlong and wallows stubbornly in the hypermodern dystopia of being an adorably expendable character(who dies endlessly but can be replaced by ordering another of the same part number) in a series of barely-distinguishable medium intensity conflicts of attrition(Big Dog and Sand Flea visit Helmand Province, On Patrol with Big Dog, Sand Flea Delivers the Payload, Big Dog and the Roadside Bomb Mystery, etc, etc.)

  4. Finally, a car that’s fun to drive.  Who wouldn’t want to take the family out for a relaxing country drive in a scaled up one of those?

    1. I suspect that, unlike some of Boston Dynamics’ designs, this might be one where the “90/10” rule actually works in your favor(“90/10” in the sense that getting the first 90% of the result is comparatively trivial; but the last 10% of the polish is hard. Something like a Big Dog would just fall over without that polish, but I suspect that somebody with an RC chassis, a disregard for their own safety when handling large springs, and a willingness to sacrifice some of the leap-accuracy and computer stabilized camera goodness could probably hack one together…)

      1. I remember seeing flipper-type competitors on Robot Wars that could do pretty impressive jumps when self-righting; nowhere near as high, but that *was* about a decade ago. So it’s probably possible to get something surprisingly similar going with amateur robotics now.

      1. bouncing RC cars are always fun in any form anyway. as for the walking pet man….no far away from – a hop, skip and a BACK FLIP launch to gold medal :)

  5. Anyone else notice the edits in the video between when the Sand Flea raises up and when it actually jumps? Subtle, but they’re there. Really curious as to how much time they cut out, and of what.

    1. You’re right, I hadn’t noticed the first time.

      Now that I’m looking for it, the only one that looks like it didn’t have a cut was when it jumped off the roof. I’m going to guess it was because it didn’t jump very high and didn’t need to “wind up” or whatever it’s doing.

    2. Based on the fairly slow motion of those flipper things, and the realistic likely speed of a motor geared down far enough to push energy into an elastic storage mechanism capable of launching a vehicle 30-feet, it might be a notrivial amount of time…

      If the design is analogous to real fleas, the ‘dead time’ would be a geared-down motor or similar putting a serious spring(probably a coil spring, since there isn’t too much room in there) under a great deal of tension before a mechanical latch suddenly releases the spring and dumps the accumulated energy more-or-less instantaneously into the jumping legs.

      To the best of my knowledge, a motor(of reasonable volume) that can deliver that much power over such a short time is a vanishingly rare beast. The drive circuit you’d need to dump that much power into an inductive load would also be a fair trick. 

      I wouldn’t claim to know the details, and there were probably a few that needed to be nailed down to get it to actually work; but I’d put some money on the cut section being the robot sitting there and gradually winding a somewhat scary spring(pneumatics might conceivably work as well; but I don’t see any hoses or hear any compressor, and you’d need some pretty fair bore sizes to get jumps like that…)

  6. I would like to see the view from an on-board video camera. 
    Some of my fellow bunnies can jump that high especially when someone steps on their little fuzzy tails.   SMUSH!   OUCH!  BOING! 

  7. wow, i cant wait till they strap remote bombs to that to take out entrenched high enemy positions! Science to the rescue! 

  8. there was a cut on the roof as well, but it’s only obvious in the audio. There are actually two cuts for each jump: in addition to a cut directly prior to each jump, there is also a cut immediately before the legs extend. (ed: reply to rrh)

  9. I guess I’m the only one who noticed the fake in that video? Start 15 seconds in and take note of the fail at about 18.

  10. Very cool, but does it scurry away when growled at by a Wookie?
    Because that would take it over the hump and into awesome territory.

  11. the fact that we live in a world where this is a weapon and not a toy says a lot about the priorities of our government. I mean this things would be put to better use on christmas day than in the trenches.

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