Speed Reads


Meet Cujo, the U.S. military's oddly endearing new robotic pack mule

Over the weekend, the U.S. Marine Corps showed off one of its newest toys, a robotic mule called the Legged Squat Support System, or LS3, at a multinational military exercise in Hawaii. LS3, also called Cujo, can carry up to 400 pounds over rugged terrain without needing to refuel for 20 miles. It also can follow and interact with humans, much like a real pack animal.

LS3 was developed by Boston Dynamics under contract with DARPA, the U.S. military's advanced research arm. It has cost $2 million and five years to create, and is still under development — it is too noisy for combat missions, for example, and can't navigate all terrain yet. But its operators, Marines chosen at random, are impressed.

"I was surprised how well it works," says Lance Cpl. Brandon Dieckmann. “I thought it was going to be stumbling around and lose its footing, but it's actually proven to be pretty reliable and pretty rugged." Another of Cujo's operators says controlling the robot "feels like playing Call of Duty." Only much more expensive. DARPA has some older video footage of the LS3 in action, but watch below to see the NBC Today Show desk gush about the "cute" new military transport machine. --Peter Weber