Japan Is Building a Giant Gundam Robot That Can Walk

At 18 meters tall and weighing 25 tons, this would be the largest humanoid robot ever built

2 min read

Evan Ackerman is IEEE Spectrum’s robotics editor.

Image: Gundam Global Challenge

Japan has had a robust robot culture for decades, thanks (at least in part) to the success of the Gundam series, which are bipedal humanoid robots controlled by a human who rides inside of them. I would tell you how many different TV series and video games and manga there are about Gundam, but I’m certain I can’t count that high—there’s like seriously a lot of Gundam stuff out there. One of the most visible bits of Gundam stuff is a real life full-scale Gundam statue in Tokyo, but who really wants a statue, right? C’mon, Japan! Bring us the real thing!

Gundam Factory Yokohama, which is a Gundam Factory in Yokohama, is constructing an 18-meter-tall, 25-ton Gundam robot. The plan is for the robot to have a steel frame and carbon resin exterior and be powered by electric actuators, achieving “Gundam-like movement” with its 24 degrees of freedom, including the ability to walk. The robot will rely on Asratec’s V-Sido operating system, which will be used to generate motion. 

Video: Kazumichi Moriyama/Impress

The University of Tokyo’s JSK Lab, one of the partners in the project, has developed a Gundam simulator that researchers can use to explore different behaviors for the robot. As we all know, simulation is pretty much just as good as reality, which is good because so far simulation is all we have of this robot, including these 1/30 scale models of the robot and the docking and maintenance facility that will be built for it:

Video: RobotStart

Apparently, the robot is coupled to a mobile support system (“Gundam Carrier”) that can move the robot in and out of the docking infrastructure, and perhaps provide power and support while the robot takes a step or two backwards and forwards, but it’s really not at all clear at this point how it’s all supposed to work. And it looks that when the robot does move, it’ll be remote controlled and spectators will be restricted to watching from a nearby building, which experience with watching large robots walk tells us is probably in the best interests of everyone.

Gundam robot in JapanImage: Sotsu/Sunrise/Gundam Factory Yokohama

The current schedule is for the robot to be open to the public by October, which seems like it’ll be a challenge—but if anyone can do it, it’s Gundam Factory Yokohama. Because no one else will.

[ Gundam Factory Yokohama ] via [ Impress ] and [ RobotStart ]

Updated 4 February 2020

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