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WTF?! Russia has unveiled a robotic dog that carries an anti-tank rocket launcher on its back. While such a creation has plenty of scary, Black Mirror-style implications, it appears to be little more than a $2,700 machine purchasable from Alibaba, carrying an RPG it might not be able to fire very well (or at all), and dressed like a dog-ninja, for some reason.
President Vladimir Putin opened Russia's "Army 2022" arms expo, which runs until August 22 at the Patriot Park in Kubinka, just outside Moscow. Among the many military weapons, vehicles, and other accessories on show was the M-81, a canine-like quadrupedal robot resembling Boston Dynamics' famous Spot, except it carries an RPG-26 on its back and is dressed in a ninja-yoroi.
Russian news agency RIA Novosti posted a video of the M-81 scuttling about and lying down at the expo, which would have been quite cute were it not hauling around a weapon of mass destruction.
The creators said, "this is a sample of the M-81 robotic system, capable of conducting aimed shooting and transporting weapons, and for civilian purposes it can be used in the emergency zone for reconnaissance, passage through rubble and delivery of medicines."
While the description sounds mildly concerning, The Drive did some digging and found the dog looks suspiciously like Unitree Robotic's UnitreeYushuTechnologyDog, available from Chinese marketplace Alibaba for as little as $2,700. That probably explains why it's dressed like a little ninja: to hide its origins rather than to scare/confuse enemies or lull them into a false sense of security. Spot, for comparison, costs around $75,000.
Assuming this really is one of Unitree's models, and it certainly appears that way, it means the dog was not produced by the Russian manufacturer showing it off—beyond them slapping a rocket launcher on its back—and it's certainly not designed for use in a military scenario. This thing is unlikely to last long in a combat zone, even with the ninja garb.
There's also a question of how well the robot operates the weapon. It might be able to carry the RPG-26 anti-tank rocket launcher, but whether it could aim or stand the shock of firing is another matter, despite the comparatively light recoil.
It seems Unitree's robot dogs are popular for this sort of thing. Russian-born inventor Alexander Atamanov showed one off with a submachine gun strapped to its back last month.
There was another robot dog, this one from Ghost Robotics, carrying a Special Purpose Unmanned Rifle, or SPUR, on show at the Association of the U.S. Army's main annual convention in Washington, D.C, last October. That particular machine (above) looked a lot more intimidating than ninja dog.