In the early 1960s, almost two decades before George Lucas’s AT-AT walkers debuted on the big screen in “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back,” GE engineers started working on their own version of a four-legged people transporter. The Pedipulator, a military “walking truck,” took its first stroll in Massachusetts.
The Pedipulator isn’t quite as silly as it looks. The difference between it and a pair of stilts lies in the feedback mechanism. The robot could pick up a pencil by feeling how to grip it.
The sensors in the Pedipulator’s feet would presumably guide the leg’s placement by testing and feeling the ground ahead just as humans walk in uncertain terrain. Besides, the Pedipulator, GE claimed, could bring itself back to a standing position if it got knocked over.
The vehicle had to be able to carry up to a half ton in men and material while pushing through dense vegetation, stepping over fallen trees and walking around standing ones. It can carry a 500-pound payload, and lift loads up to 500 pounds with one foot. It can drag a 1,000-pound load across a floor.The power unit is a 90-hp. gasoline engine that drives a pump for a high-pressure hydraulic system. The legs are moved by hydraulic actuators.The actuator servos are hydromechanical and need no electronic elements.