We won't have to wait much longer for our Robotech future. South Korean robotics manufacturer Hankook Mirae Technology debuted its first prototype piloted mech over the weekend. Say hello to the Method-2.
It stands 13-feet tall, weighs 1.3 tons and wields a pair of 286-pound, motion-tracking metal arms. "Our robot is the world's first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go (unprotected)," company chairman, Yang Jin-Ho, said in a prepared statement. The company has spent upwards of $200 million since 2014 to develop the mech with the help of Hollywood SFX designer, Vitaly Bulgarov, whose credits include Transformers, Robocop and Terminator.
The Method-2 itself likely won't be employed in the field anytime soon. Instead, the giant machine will serve as a testbed for emerging mech technologies. Future iterations, however, could find use in everything from construction and cargo loading to military and SAR operations.
Hiriko folding car project spawns a Gundam Car
One of the standout oddities at the Tokyo Motor Show this year was a Hiriko fold-up electric two-seater which received a Gundam-style makeover for the event. The colorful paint job came courtesy of Kunio Okawara, the legendary mechanical designer responsible for a veritable shopping list of mecha designs.
Although Hiriko might sound Japanese, the name actually comes from the Basque word for "urban," reflecting the car's commercial development at Denokinn (the Basque Center for Innovation) in Spain following its initial development at MIT's Media Lab.
According to Anime News Network, Japanese R&D company Four link Systems, which holds the Japanese rights for the vehicle, is working with Niigata Prefecture to develop a new "Niigata model" Hiriko that will be released in Japan through the Mirai-Project (Future Project). It is a mockup of this model that was on show in Tokyo.
Although the Hiriko doesn't boast the same degrees of freedom as a Gundam, it does have a folding mechanism, which allows it to reduce its length by a meter (3.3 ft) to take up less space when parked. It's unclear if the Niigata model will have any differences with the Hiriko that aren't purely cosmetic, but we can only hope there are some mecha-inspired functions in addition to the Hiriko's folding capabilities.
The Mirai Project didn't just stop at enlisting the services of Kunio Okawara, but also uses Mirai Suenaga, the mascot character for the popular Culture Japan website. This was evidenced by the girls at the booth at the Tokyo Motor Show decked out in Mirai Suenaga outfits.
Test drives of the Niigata model are reportedly planned for mid-2014.
Toyota is the top bidder for robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics
Over the past couple of months, Google's parent company Alphabet has been looking to offload its robotics division, Boston Dynamics, as it seeks to divert its attention to self-driving cars. Toyota's Research Institute was thought to interested in picking up the company from the start, but Nikkei is now reporting that the car maker's R&D arm is close to signing a deal for not only Boston Dynamics, but also Google's Japanese robotics company, Schaft.
According to the newspaper, the Toyota Research Institute will use its $1 billion budget to purchase both companies. The Institute was established in November 2015 to develop AI, robotics and autonomous car technologies and opened its first facility in Silicon Valley in January.
Earlier this week, Tech Insider reported that the "ink is nearly dry" on the deal, suggesting it won't be long until Alphabet and Toyota formally announce the trade. It added autonomous vehicle specialist Jaybridge Robotics to its team in March, now it's looking to bolster its team ahead of a possible rollout of self-driving cars in 2020. Let's hope Spot, Atlasand AlphaDog make the journey too.