BY Noah Shachtman / January 03, 2008
Just before the holidays, I took a trip up to iRobot’s headquarters, outside of Boston, to take a look at the machine that’ll form the heart of the Army’s $286 million “unmanned surge.” Along the way, I caught my first glimpse of robot yoga.
The “FasTac” is the smaller, lighter, easier-to-operate cousin of the iRobot’s Packbot machine; if the Army has its way, it’ll be the first ground robot that’s mass-distributed to infantrymen.
iRobot is furiously trying to fill the Army’s first order for 101 ‘bots. But right now, there are only a few — and iRobot engineer John Souliere has spent more time driving ’em than anyone on the planet. He devoted hundreds of hours to learning how to operate the machine, so he could be ready for the Army’s “drive-off” which helped decide who would get the unmanned surge contract. Along the way, Souliere figured out how to make the robot do some pretty strange things.
The first picture is of the machine in a more-or-less standard configuration. After that, you can see Souliere twist the FasTac into poses that are straight outta kundalini.