All I want for Christmas is a robot suit and unlimited power!
December 22, 2004 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Giant robots in the backyard. An ambitious young Alaskan is trying to create his own mecha suit. Be sure to look at the pictures. The GE Hardiman project only managed to have one working arm, here's hoping Owens has more luck with his robot suit.
posted by riffola (20 comments total)
Where do these people--the guy in Louisiana with the giant hole, the guy building the Millenium Falcon, this guy, etc.--find the time to build stuff like this in their backyards? Maybe if I repurpose the time I spend on MetaFilter...
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:48 AM on December 22, 2004

I've got to say that these two (one real, one fake) are more fun...
posted by runkelfinker at 6:59 AM on December 22, 2004

posted by jon_kill at 7:03 AM on December 22, 2004

There is nothing nerdy about a Mecha.... I mean, once you finally build it, you can impress all those green haired women and they'll be throwing their clothes off like there's no tomorrow. I mean that's what happens in anime films....ok, so I guess it is nerdy.
posted by asianmack at 7:06 AM on December 22, 2004

Screw trekking poles. I've found my new backpacking accessory.
posted by driveler at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2004

Robert Heinlein's 1959 novel "Starship Troopers," and the 1997 film made from the book, featured soldiers with powerful exoskeletal armor that dramatically augmented their strength.

I guess the author (John Borland) has never seen the 1997 film; which I suppose is fortunate for him.
posted by moonbiter at 7:15 AM on December 22, 2004

Whoa! In the photo of the Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton (BLEE?), is that Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair?
posted by tpl1212 at 7:16 AM on December 22, 2004

[This is good]
posted by graymouser at 7:18 AM on December 22, 2004

He's going to crush cars with it? He's no Tony Stark.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:52 AM on December 22, 2004

runkelfinker, the fort you linked to is pretty cool, but how much cooler would it be if it got up and walked?
posted by plasticpool at 8:36 AM on December 22, 2004

If this thing ever works, and the general public were allowed to order one (at $35,000 - $40,000, according to his website), I wonder what kind of license would be required to operate it?
posted by elafint at 9:08 AM on December 22, 2004

I think it has good commercial applications. I remember watching Aliens and thinking that the power-suit-loader thing made a lot of sense. Sure as hell looked real, too.

I wonder if Owens has ever heard of or met Kevin Warwick. I saw his talk at SXSW a couple years ago and it was fascinating. Maybe the two of them could get together. If he could work something with Warwick, might save a lot of weight on the thing with respect to hydraulics.
posted by TeamBilly at 9:19 AM on December 22, 2004

TeamBilly, I'm familiar with Prof. Warwick's cyborg experiments, but I'm not familiar with any work of his which would be able to replace the hydraulics powering an 18' tall steel robot. Most of his work seems to be in nerve-computer integration. Was there something he spoke specifically about at SXSW?
posted by elafint at 9:27 AM on December 22, 2004

I hope he's got plans for making his 18-foot tall robot walk. Bipedal locomotion isn't easy to do. You'll notice that ASIMO and QRIO, among others, generally shift all their weight onto one leg as they move the other; in the case of this mecha, there's a lot of weight to shift regardless of his strategy.

It says in the article that he put a lot of weight in the robot's legs, which is probably a good idea. Still, you lift up one leg to move it, and you're still off balance.

P.S. It's hard for me to find Warwick impressive. Volunteering at the Humane Society in 1995, I helped inject RFID tags into animals, but when we were done we didn't call them cyborgs.
posted by tss at 10:09 AM on December 22, 2004


I shouldn't have said "replace hydraulics." I should have said "governs motion."

It was this line in the article that made me think of Warwick:

"Owens said he can't afford top-of-the line equipment, like infrared sensors and electronics that would govern the motion."

At the SXSW talk he gave, he specifically mentioned how they achieved the extra-sensory inputs from the ultrasonic sensors mounted on the brim of a hat. Warwick reacted to objects in proximity to the sensors, though they weren't particularly sure why it worked, IIRC. His eyes were closed and I believe he was blindfolded. But he would "feel" a piece of cardboard as it neared the sensors, and flinch if it was moved rapidly.

The electronics Warwick used weren't particularly sophisticated in a high-tech sense, (near as I could tell) and it made me think that if Warwick's experiments seemed to work there, then the "balance sense" that Owens is looking for to govern the motion might apply in the same way. I am neither engineer nor scientist so I don't know, but from this layman's perspective, I simply wonder if it makes sense.

tss -

You didn't call them Cyborgs because they weren't - there was no physical or neural interaction with the tag. As Tyler Durden said, "Sticking feathers up your ass does not make you a chicken." An RFID tag does not a cyborg pet make.

I found Warwick's speech at SXSW compelling, and I plan to read his book if Santa brings it to me like I asked.
posted by TeamBilly at 11:15 AM on December 22, 2004

Bipedal locomotion isn't easy to do.

I understand the human form is inefficient and impractical for robots in general.

God bless 'im, though! We're one day closer to the magical day giant robots walk the streets. I'd like eventually to see some of the robot/art made by Slick Henry in Gibson's Mona Lisa Overdrive too ;-)
posted by Shane at 11:17 AM on December 22, 2004

It's impractical now, but I hold hope for the future.

I have a friend who works on compliant legs---legs with some spring in them. He wants to make a bipedal runner for his thesis. Maybe it's just his proselytizing, but I think his work is going to make strides (har) toward making bipedal robots practical. Storing and releasing mechanical energy in each step will make walking and running much more efficient.
posted by tss at 1:43 PM on December 22, 2004

plasticpool, yup it'd be pretty cool...
posted by runkelfinker at 4:02 PM on December 22, 2004

This makes me very, very happy.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 4:17 PM on December 22, 2004

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