That’s Right, Japan Has Created A Real Life 4 Ton Mech Robot

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The pilotable Kuratas mech robot may just be an artistic prototype, but it gets the message across: mecha are the future.

Its name is Kuratas, and it's a dream come true for mech robot fans. That's right -- it's your very own mecha to zoom around in and target your enemies...sort of. The Japanese firm Suidobashi Heavy Industry showed off its pilotable Gundam-style mecha at this year's Wonder Festival held outside Tokyo. Created out of a collaboration between artist Kogoro Kurata and roboticist Waturu Yoshizaki, the first footage of the mecha was posted on YouTube in April.

Kuratas is 13-feet tall, weighs 4 tons, is equipped with weaponry (relatively tame, relatively), and has a base cost of $1.3 million. It can be controlled by a pilot in the cockpit or by a smartphone. It also can be fully customized during the ordering process on the Suidobashi website, so you can get the bot in cool colors and tricked out just the way you want it. Unlike a mecha, though, it does not have jet boosters in the feet but instead rides on four wheels at a top speed of 10 kilometers per hour and 30 joints provide some movement.

Here is a video of the it's public unveiling:

As cool as Kuratas looks, it isn't a killing machine. The mecha has weapons, such as a LOHAS launcher that can shoot filled water bottles at a target albeit inaccurately, and twin Gatling guns that track an fire off 6,000 BBs a minute that can be triggered by the pilot smiling, part of a tracking system that is aptly named the "Smile Shot".

Check out the instructional video, which shows off the features of the Kuratas:

According to Suidobashi, Kuratas is dubbed an "art project" to fulfill the dream of piloting your very own mecha. So, it's really a proof-of-concept kind of project, as it is currently difficult to imagine what you'd do with a mecha as a civilian. The idea here is to show off what can be done, fulfill some childhood dreams, and inspire others in the robotics field.

But Kuratas is far from a combat ready mecha.

One of the biggest problems to solve with robotic exoskeletons is mobility. Fans of anime know that mecha don't just fly, they demonstrate a wide range of maneuvers with as much flexibility, speed, and responsiveness as a solider can demonstrate on the ground. Furthermore, mecha can transform from a humanoid form into other various modes that accentuate certain features, like flight. It also remains to be seen in what instances a mecha would be superior to modern firepower. Still, large-scale exoskeleton robots remain a R&D target in Japan, everything from simple Land Walker mecha from 2006 to a power loader, and with each project, solutions to problems are found that can aid other robot projects.

From a futurist's point of view, the standoff between the Kuratas and the quadcopter in the video demonstration is intriguing. Are we peering into the future of combat when swarms of drones acting as surrogates of soldiers will go up against an enemy housed inside giant manueverable mecha? Perhaps the battlefield will also be populated by soldiers in powered armor, like Robert Heinlein envisioned in the 1959 novel Starship Troopers. Or maybe all of these are wrong, and conflicts will be resolved by autonomous bots of destruction.

In the end, Kuratas brings science fiction into reality with one of the most iconic elements from cartoons from the last few decades. Let's hope it's the start of even more mecha awesomeness.

A customized selection (in Macross-like colors) from the Suidobashijuko website

[Media: Suidobashi]

[Sources: CNETSuidobashi]

David J. Hill

Managing Director, Digital Media at Singularity University
I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

Discussion — 14 Responses

  • digitalcole August 4, 2012 on 5:46 pm

    DARPA challenge in 3,2,1…

  • Sunshine2047 August 4, 2012 on 10:20 pm

    wheel not leg, epic fail

    • Fons Jena Sunshine2047 August 5, 2012 on 1:05 am

      That was exactly what I was thinking. Give me some money and I can build a ‘mech’ like this one in no time …

      These are misleading titles and people get fooled! Wake me when we have controllable walking robots :).

    • Tracy R. Atkins Sunshine2047 August 16, 2012 on 1:10 pm

      A set of tracks would make it much more useful.

  • why06 August 5, 2012 on 5:42 am

    “This is Kuratas.”

    blah blah blah

    ding ding ding

    “This is Kuratas.”

  • ariccio August 7, 2012 on 1:10 pm

    But how hard can it be to convert two Gatling BBs to a small caliber chaingun?

    • Snackfood Alderson ariccio April 5, 2013 on 2:33 pm

      This is for the public a chain gun would be very dangerous I am sure that They have much more they are not telling us.

  • BeholdersEye August 10, 2012 on 11:26 am

    Can it pick up a car/nuclear reactor and throw it? If not I don’t need it.

  • Vstoriguard August 11, 2012 on 8:20 pm

    I predate the craze for mecha devices. Perhaps because of that, i.e., my age, I have always doubted that they would be very useful as weapons. They seem far too big to me, too easily targeted, and with too many flat surfaces that could not deflect a shaped charge.

    But, still…

    They LOOK so damn cool.


  • kodi April 22, 2013 on 12:11 pm

    freakin awesome

  • kodi April 22, 2013 on 12:12 pm

    freakin awesome would be better if it could walk but hey its a start i wish the military would get these i would join in a heart beat if they did just so i could pilot one

  • Ron Smith August 25, 2013 on 2:45 pm

    4 tons. Is that a lot? No. I have a pickup truck that weighs over 2 tons and it has bigger WHEELS (chuckle)

  • Troy Blood November 8, 2013 on 12:38 pm

    I love how everyone is ripping on it, it’s a Mecha because it’s a robot controlled by a human, so essentially robotic battle armour, that’s all a mecha is in summary having wheel or legs doesn’t make it not a mecha. It’s a start and quite frankly I think it’s pretty cool and as far as technology goes in today’s day and age, pretty high tech. Kudos to them. Oh, and to all those people saying that they can do better, I doubt it, with today’s technology this is probably the best we’re going to get until any further advancements.

  • hq-cn November 29, 2013 on 2:11 am

    @Troy Blood – don’t be stupid, these countries listed below are very likely to create some new technology like world of Transformers if they are willing to work together or have finance;
    Countries that are super good with military tech and weaponry:
    China- deploying materials for the tech and much more
    Pakistan- The in-penetrable design and core modules and reference to its skills: Al-Khalid Tank, and many other secret techs.
    Ukraine- Backup Engine and other systems.
    USA- Secure weaponry deployment and high-tech modules and communication and many more techs.
    India- Software and Interface.
    Japan- Visual Touch System Enhancements.
    Germany- Powerful Primary Engines.
    France- Energy Components
    And so on, if these countries combine the world will create the future that in individual could take 100+ years, but if together now, then we humans will cross the current time-frame.