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Robotics Toys

Homemade Mecha Walks in Japan 349

EtherAlchemist writes "Sakakibara Kikai has pictures and even a movie of their Land Walker robot (Babelfish translation here) which appears to work. Powered by a 250cc gas engine and armed with several guns (including 2 that fire Nerf-like balls) it stands at a little over 3 meters. What makes this one interesting is that it is actually armed and it is piloted instead of being an exo-skeleton. Makes me wonder if the creators of shows like Robotech or comics/RPGs like Battletech have any kind of licensening rights on appearance. I'd like to see a Warhammer..."
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Homemade Mecha Walks in Japan

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  • Of Course (Score:5, Funny)

    by jcuffe ( 873322 ) <jared@edifies.us> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:41AM (#12151423) Homepage
    Japan would be the first country to build a walking robot that shoots stuff.
    • I for one welcome our..... We know if any country is going to take over the world with biped robots, its going to be the japanese
    • by SparksMcGee ( 812424 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:51AM (#12151479)
      I feel I speak for all frustrated nerds who have so often wished for a robotic engine of death of our very own when I say "Ha ha ha! Fools! I'll destroy them all!"

      /with ackowledgments to Gary Larson

    • by Forthan Red ( 820542 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @02:07AM (#12151542)
      Some people will do anything to win the con's costume contest.
    • Re:Of Course (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kai.chan ( 795863 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:05AM (#12151733)
      Starting from plastic models of their favorite mecha, the Japanese have a genuine interest in robotics. The anime and game industries are big factors in Japan's advances in Robotics. Because of mainstream interest in mecha, especially Gundam, University clubs and hobbyist start huge projects on trying to replicate the cool mecha seen in anime.

      Contrast to Robot Wars with wedges slamming each other (which I find to be quite monotonous and repetitive after the first few times), I believe that the path the Japanese are taking -- bipedal robots which are more versatile -- will benefit mankind in terms of usefulness and application. Heck, even the Japanese version of Robot Wars is much more entertaining to watch, with the robots going through various attack patterns. Check it out here [impress.co.jp]
      • Re:Of Course (Score:5, Interesting)

        by McFadden ( 809368 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @06:11AM (#12152279)
        You're right. There's even a prime-time family show over here (completely unrelated to anything techie) that has a robot-walker battle segment in it where amateur hobbyists duel it out with robots that would put the "wedges" to shame. Mom, Dad and the kids all turn up to control or cheer on the beast that they've been furiously developing in their garage. Their robots even do funky kung-fu style moves (albeit slowly!), or have 'gloat' manouevers so that they can do a little dance after they've knocked the other guy off the arena.

        A few years ago when the dotcom crash blew apart our industry I nervously accepted a position in Japan and headed out here not really knowing what to expect. I can honestly say its the best decision I ever made. I've never regretted it for a single day. I'd recommend it to anyone.

    • As well as the first to build one that uses karate [tohokingdom.com] to fight off invading giant monsters.
  • Help!! the terminators are here
  • by FireballX301 ( 766274 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:44AM (#12151438) Journal
    It has one autocannon and a single gatling cannon. Where are the Extended range lasers? Or the Crossbow missiles?

    I'm actually quite impressed though, but I'd like to see a shot of it actually walking around and such.
  • It'll make city driving easier once I can crush SUVs and shoot slow drivers with Nerf balls. Imagine that thing crushing SUVs and orange balls bouncing off cars.


  • Bot vs Bot (Score:4, Funny)

    by Airconditioning ( 639167 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:45AM (#12151443) Journal
    Still waiting paitently for the day they're armed with real weapons and used in arena style fights to the death.

    Clearly they'd never be used against real people.
  • by Huxley_Dunsany ( 659554 ) <huckdunsany@m a c .com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:46AM (#12151447)
    ...but I'm waiting for the battle-royale between this and the RoboShark!

    Seriously, it's awesome to see two amazing robotic inventions like these - maybe Asimov's vision of a robot-filled future isn't so far off...


    PS I just can't wait till RoboSharks and Rooba's start mating... Land Shark!

  • Pretty cool .. (Score:5, Informative)

    by All Names Have Been ( 629775 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:47AM (#12151455)
    ... Except that it's more of a shuffler than a walker. Still, some cool hacking went into this thing.

    In case of a late-night Slashdotting, I've got a copy of the movie stashed temporarily: robo movie [toast442.org]
  • Sweet (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mr.Zong ( 704396 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:48AM (#12151464)
    Now we can pit the robot sharks against the robot suited humans in circle of sweet death.
    Laser eyes, baby, laser eyes.

    I love technology.
  • Completely useless with the pseudo-walking, but still, if I had money, I'd buy 12. Deeeeyamn, that's cool.
  • Walking? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Forthan Red ( 820542 )
    That a pretty lose definition of "walking". Reminds me of Tim Conway's little-old-man character's shuffle.
  • by CharAznable ( 702598 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:51AM (#12151482)
    Any word on which 15 year old socially inept angst-ridden teenage son of one of the creators will be chosen to pilot it?
  • by Rightcoast ( 807751 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:53AM (#12151492) Homepage
    I wouldn't exactly say this thing walked. It rolled really.

    Although this machine is really cool, It is kind of pointless to put guns on it (implying a military purpose) when enemy fighters could escape the contraption by simply fleeing over say, a parking block or curb.
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:56AM (#12151507) Homepage
    That's most excellent, but with some craft supplies, you too can have a homemade mecha walking in your house too. tee hee

    Here's the costume I made to carry my son for Halloween:
    http://hallert.net/mech/mechcostume.htm [hallert.net]

    Here's a video of it in motion:
    http://hallert.net/mech/WalkingTheMech.wmv [hallert.net]

  • Just because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DuranDuran ( 252246 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:57AM (#12151508)
    > Makes me wonder if the creators of shows like Robotech or comics/RPGs like Battletech have any kind of licensening rights on appearance.

    This may sound like a troll, but I don't mean it that way:

    Just because in this day and age people can sue other people for just about any reason, doesn't mean that everything needs to be turned into a legal issue.

    If I was a member of this mecha's development team and I read this, I'd seriously be wondering whether inclusion on slashdot was really such a good thing after all.
    • Fiction has no license defense really. Just about everything we use today was predicted in sci-fi 40 or so years ago. If it was possible to sue, it would have happened. Its one thing to talk about an idea and another to create a working version.
    • Not Likely (Score:3, Informative)

      by wirefarm ( 18470 )
      People sue a *lot* less here in Japan than they do in the US.
      Corporations may a bit more, but it's just not a litigious society.
    • Just because in this day and age people can sue other people for just about any reason

      The only country having such a legal "culture" where you sue others for even futile things seems to be the US though.

  • One word (Score:3, Funny)

    by hydopower ( 869406 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:58AM (#12151512)
    Awesome. The Honda robot, those exoskeletons from a couple months ago(for instance the "old people" walker, as if that's the real purpose), this, and the robot that does Tai Chi suggest to me these things: 1) The Japanese are rapidly advancing in bizarre robot technology, in both manned and unmanned forms 2) They may already be armed with strange weapons 3) They're definately already being trained in the martial arts We had better be prepared.
    • Re:One word (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NardofDoom ( 821951 )
      You say "old people" walker like it's a bad thing. My brother-in-law has MD and an exoskeleton that would give him back his independence (imagine going through puberty and having to have your mother help you go to the bathroom) would be worth its weight in gold.
  • Mirror of the Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by ClamChwdrMan ( 790007 ) * <ira@snyder.gmail@com> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @01:59AM (#12151514) Homepage
    Mirror of the vid for everyone: http://www.csupomona.edu/~iwsnyder/robo_s.wmv [csupomona.edu] The video is awesome. I love the nice touches, like the controls for the guns, and the self-lowering windshield.
  • From the translated article:

    The left side shot cancer/gun type (6 departure)

    So this mech is equipped with a asbestos gun. Great.

  • by Bifurcati ( 699683 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @02:01AM (#12151521) Homepage
    Has anyone else noticed that this is the third robot post in the last 36 hours?!!!

    Now might be a good time to get out the old Playstation and start practising against the apparently immeninent take over bid...

  • The video (someone please mirror it)
    http://www.sakakibara-kikai.co.jp/products/other/i mages/robo_s.wmv [sakakibara-kikai.co.jp]

    What amuses me is it looks like it's sliding on the cement ground, rather than walking with their legs.
  • by MrScience ( 126570 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @02:01AM (#12151524) Homepage
    In the video, it is a bit unsturdy, I hope the guy piloting it doesn't get sea/car/motion/robot sickness easily.
    Looks like it uses wheels in the feet to move around (interesting that it can pivot without having to reposition the feet). That design decision reduces the types of terrain available to traversing, though.

    Reminds me a lot of the Mini Cooper "robot" [r50rd.co.uk]. I'd be suprised if the Land Walker were fake, though... it's just too imperfect. :)

    I love the progress of science. I want a real Steel Battalion vertical tank! [teamxbox.com] (awesome game, btw)
  • by taneem ( 873769 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @02:10AM (#12151557) Homepage
    It takes too much power to drive actuators to raise the feet off the ground. A lot more energy efficient to use the wheels. Of course, it's a lot more complicated to build a walking mech too, and what they've built thus far is remarkable already. Still, they take a hit in terms of agility - this mecha ain't going nowhere fast. Now it needs a jetpack...
  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @02:13AM (#12151569) Homepage Journal
    Oddly enough, this translates to "Sarah Conner Finder"
  • I hear it comes with a large speaker, which announces every 10 seconds "All your bases are belong to us."
  • Looks Like (Score:2, Interesting)

    by willmeister ( 709686 )
    their server is as badass as the machine - except its a bit faster. -- only in japan can some random guy host a 5 meg movie and be slashdotted without the server crashing and burning
  • by MrFlannel ( 762587 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @02:41AM (#12151656)
    I for one welcome our new ... oh, nevermind, it can't even walk right.
  • Do the Shuffle (Score:5, Informative)

    by MDMurphy ( 208495 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:00AM (#12151718)
    While it has legs, it's really a stretch to call this walking.
    Now this is a walker: http://www.plustech.fi/Walking1.html [plustech.fi]
    Video: http://www.plustech.fi/WalkingVideo.html [plustech.fi]

    Yes, it has more than 2 legs, but at least they come off the ground and wouldn't be stopped dead in it's tracks by a speed bump.

    The walker reference probably came from it's gait, it looks like an old man in slippers while pushing a walker in front of him.
    • Re:Do the Shuffle (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @06:30AM (#12152330) Homepage
      That has the advantage of 6 legs.

      The problem is that we do not have any mechanical systems that can move rapid enough and accurate enough to mimic biped standing walking and running, espically in a 12 ton mecha form. as soon as someone invents that then your desire would come true in the form of forestry and construction equipment. They would KILL for a machine with the agility of a biped and the speed of a wheeled vehicle.

      the human legs are insanely accurate and fast devices, performing tons of micro adjustments every second. Look at a master of karate, he/she can kick so fast it looks like a blur yet stop their foot 1 inch from your face. computer technology is fast enough to handle that processing but there is no high strength mechanical actuation systems that can.

      and honestly mechanical systems are still very much primitive with only small advances because there has been no need for high speed, high strength, high acuracy yet.
  • by vena ( 318873 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @03:07AM (#12151741)
    its only weakness... stairs.
  • I know that most of slashdot would pay their left nut (not like they need it) to ride in this thing.

    How soon till we get the homebrew kit, how much will it cost, and when can they fly?

    But seriously, this is really cool. And somehow I always had a gut feeling that true mecha would be created not by the military with their massive budgets, but by home tinkerers, who might not have the best materials and equipment, but still manage to cobble together something that works, and more importantly, something that

  • More like Land Shuffler than Land Walker. Still, if it gets you to the Post Office to collect your pension, who's worried how fast it actually travels? It is not like anyone is actually going to complain, is it?
  • I want to see real Atlas-class mechs. And ones that really walk, not roll.

    Lift foot.
    Lightly position foot on tank.
    Shift weight on foot.
    Note audible Shzplat-a-*poof*.
    Lift foot.
    Take two steps back.
    Observe 60-Ton flat metal plate.

    Then again I never exactly got the math of the weight thing figured out. A modern MBT (think M1) weighs in around the 60 Ton ballpark, whereas an Atlas which dwarfs it quite considerably (enough to quite literally smudge it by stepping on it) said "100 Ton". Maybe I forgot to
    • by DG ( 989 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @11:58AM (#12154890) Homepage Journal
      Disclaimer: I'm a retired real-life Armoured officer - and incidently, a former hard-core Battletech (board game!) player.

      Sadly, there's a few reasons why we're unlikely to ever see 'mechs striding the landscape:

      1) Vulnerability. Modern anti-armour weapons, especially guns, are insanely powerful. The 120mm gun in the M1A2, when equipped with the latest APFSDS ammo, has a muzzle velocity of over 1800 m/s, and a penatrative capacity of 960mm of Rolled Homogeneous armour - yes, nearly a full metre of solid steel. 1 cubic metre of steel weighs roughly 17,000 lbs

      Tanks get away from this by using armour that has greater protection capacity at thinner thicknesses, and heavily armouring only the portions of the tank likely to see fire - the turret, and the front of the tank. Tank commanders are heavily trained to use terrain and situational awareness to keep the armour pointed at the enemy. The punishments for getting caught "tracks up to the world" or "broadsides" were severe (although not as severe as what the enemy could dish out)

      Ideally, the only part of the tank visible to the enemy at any given point in time is the gun muzzle and the front of the turret.

      Effectively, the armour on the turret is worth about 800-900mm of RHA, and the glacis is between 500-600mm. The sides, top, and rear are much, much less - and the way that you generate those high effective thicknesses is through the use of super-dense materials like depleted uranium - lighter than the equivelent resistive thickness of steel, but still not exactly light.

      Your Atlas, even if the front arcs are more heavily armoured than the rear, stands so much taller than a tank that concealment and the use of terrain will be much tougher, if not impossible. That means that the forward arcs will have to be *at least* as well armoured as the turret of an M1, and it has a MUCH larger surface area to cover. That's going to weigh a LOT more than 100 tons.

      2) Mobility: Given the massive weight of the chassis (dictated by the armour it needs to carry) and the high ground pressure (dictated by the bipedal form factor) this thing is going to tear up terrain like nobodies' business. Tanks, with low ground pressure and (typically) rubber-padded tracks, still rip the shit out of roadways and open country. Your Atlas is going to be far, far worse. It will be difficult to move any number of them from place to place without transforming the roadway into an untraversable morass, and bridges will be right out of the question.

      Even assuming ideal conditions, mobility is still going to suffer. In a world dominated by line-of-sight projectile weapons, the proper place for a biped is on his stomach - or squatting. Soldiers walk and run, yes - but only for short distances. A quick burst of speed to the next position of cover, and then dive on your face.

      I doubt your Atlas will dive more than once.

      There are other reasons... but the basic problem is one of scale. Bipeds do not scale well past a certain size.

  • Analog system (Score:2, Insightful)

    Looks like it's completely analog, no digital gyro or actuators. No radar... No night vision... No talking computer... this is nothing like a mech, more like an upright motor vehicle, aka a freaking car. I don't consider something a mech unless it has at least a few of these things. Not to mention the fact that I can walk faster than this thing, it has literally no use whatsoever, not even a leap in design... just a pet project by an amateur engineer. I would be impressed if this thing didn't use wheels an
  • It's a bastardized skid steer front end loader.
    It's very cool looking and all but not very practical. I own a Bobcat 732 skid steer front end loader and I can tell you this, you can flip that puppy pretty easy. And this thing, no way you would get me up there like the driver in the video.. If this things eats shit, the driver is pretty much mush.

    And the 250cc engine? Big deal, my Bobcat has a small V4 gas engine in it, not much bigger than a motorcycle engine. 250cc is nothing to just move and aluminu
  • Take a closer look..
  • Compfused.com [compfused.com] has a video clip of this robot (looks the same to me)!
  • Robotech vehicles (Score:3, Interesting)

    by master_p ( 608214 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @06:20AM (#12152305)
    Now that Robotech is mentioned, I have to say I find the Veritech fighter the coolest looking fighter aircraft ever. The best moment was when a Veritech transformed was trying to land. It's motion sequence reminded my of an eagle landing!

    The Veritech looks almost like an F-15. Would it be useful for a military force to have these transformable aircraft? could it be done?
    • by cybpunks3 ( 612218 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @06:33AM (#12152335)
      Mecha started with "Giant Robots" which were really Japan's way of doing Sci-fi while tying back to its Samurai roots.

      When you actually look objectively at what a "Mech" would require, engineeringwise, and how it would pose risks to the human pilot, you realize how it will never become a reality, no matter how much R&D is spent.

      When you watch an anime battle with Mecha you see a lot of instances of these things doing hairpin turns and falling to the ground and bouncing around in a jarring fashion. Even today jet pilots can not pull certain maneuvers without blacking out from the G-forces. The kinds of things you see in anime would kill a human pilot instantly without some kind of magical inertial dampener technology. You'd be lucky if you walked away with just a case of whiplash.

      Secondly, we just don't have materials strong enough to build one of these. The joints especially are problematic. There is a real limit to how big these can be without being ultra fragile. If one of these were to fall over, not only would you need help to pick it up, but you'd probably also have to repair it.

      Third, power supply. All those motors need energy. How long do you think it will run off an internal battery or some noisy gas engine?

      I think it's great to try, but just because it LOOKS like something out of anime doesn't mean it's going to be anything close to as functional, and like I said, even if you could magically produce something that could perform like anime, without those intertial dampenders you REALLY wouldn't want to play around with it.

      • by Shotgun ( 30919 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @10:45AM (#12153975)
        Good analysis, but let me add just one point...

        Military vehicle designers have a name for big round blobs sitting on top of stilts. They call it 'a target'. There is a reason that both the Abram's tank and the Hummer are wide flat vehicles. You get the carrying capacity, and if a shell explodes nearby there is less chance of flipping the vehicle. The typical 'mech' design would be easily toppled and rendered useless with a simple hand tossed grenade, and that big round blob provide lots of area to absorb the blast.
        • by master_p ( 608214 )
          What you are saying is true for the classical type of battle, i.e. an open battlefield with mostly flat terrain. But this is hardly the case for today, where the air force plays the most significant role, and armies are called to fight in very diverse areas.

          On the other hand, it would be much easier for a robot like this to play hide-and-seek in mountainous areas, then instantly take off with a quick jump in the air and transform to an aircraft. It would also be possible to hide it inside mountain curves.
  • It runs on wheels, and the "feet" move like they're being dragged about by the wheels, I say it's basically a really jacked up pickup truck with a robot shell.
  • What are they doing letting spaceballs drive that thing?!
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @08:01AM (#12152621) Homepage
    How paralyzed soldiers can mame, kill and destroy again. I can't write more -- I'm moved to tears and cannot see the keyboard.
  • Because they have a license over all depictions of giant robots with people in them despite all the previous depictions of giant robots with people in them such as...

    the imperial walkers from empire strikes back(1983), Macross
    Mazingger Z from 1972 ...or perhaps the powerered suit concept in which "Starship troopers" (1960) the book predates Gundam by about 30 years.
  • by JonKatzIsAnIdiot ( 303978 ) <`moc.oohay' `ta' `0002_1624a'> on Wednesday April 06, 2005 @10:19AM (#12153622)
    I'll take a hovertank (a la Hammer's Slammers) over a mech any day. Much more practical. A lower profile means it's harder to hit. It can get knocked around and it won't topple over. No knees that can be taken out with a single shot.

    While all of you mech fanatics are rolling around on the ground like a octegenarian with a busted hip, I'll be safe and sound in my tank, busy putting you out of your misery.

"It might help if we ran the MBA's out of Washington." -- Admiral Grace Hopper