Tech Today: Walking Forest Machine
Merlin Roadster


Here's an invention whose appearance could give Dr. Seuss's tree-hugging character the Lorax a heart attack.

Looking for all the world like a giant robotic ant or scorpion, Plustech's Walking Forest Machine is a 21st century lumberjack's dream. A sophisticated artificial intelligence controls the legs, carrying the operator over all sorts of terrain. It can reach timber on steep slopes or in soft soil that would mire wheeled vehicles. Timber that would normally be inaccessible can now be scouted and harvested.


But despite its fearsome appearance, the Walking Machine is actually meant to be environmentally friendly.

By giving the modern Paul Bunyon access to the deep woods, he can select only the most mature plants and leave younger growth standing. In practice this could mean no more clear-cutting of forests, more consistency in the quality of commercial lumber, and no unsightly tire tracks left behind.

Indeed, tires cause a good deal of damage on their own. Tires crush tree roots and young plants, and pack the soil down so hard that new growth in the ruts has little chance. Walking Machines can gingerly step around roots and young trees, and the crane can reach for trees dozens of feet away.

So maybe it's Babe the Blue Ox who should be scared -- of losing his job.

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