Innovation

Sci-fi rant: Why giant mecha robots are stupid

The next person who says "I can't wait until the Army develops real mecha" gets a boot to the head, because in real life, giant robots are actually really stupid. Here's why.

voltron_in_the_sun.jpgAdmit it, you love giant robots. Call them mecha, Gundam, super robots, battlemechs, or whatever--you love them. I love them. Everyone loves them. Ultraman. MechaGodzilla. Gigantor. Voltron. The other Voltron. Tranzor Z. Each of these franchises has found international acclaim and nourished the battlebot desires of millions of fans--some of whom forget exactly how fictional these sci-fi superdroids really are.

The next person who says "I can't wait until the Army develops real mecha" gets a boot to the head, because in real life, mecha are actually really stupid. Here's why: Bipedal robots are stupid

Pretty much since the dawn of robotics, we've been trying to find a way to make robots walk on two legs. Not because anybody needs robots to walk on two legs, but just to prove it can be done. And while it is possible now, with millions of dollars of technology and advanced software, it still can't be done well. Try and get Asimo to walk up stairs or, you know, move quickly and you get the picture. Bipedal locomotion is hard. That's why it's rare in nature.

Compare the number of two-legged creatures to those sporting four, six, or eight legs and you'll realize that bipedal is a gross minority position, for a variety of reasons. Four legs is a minimal base for stability--just ask any table. You could get by with three legs, but you you abandon bilateral symmetry, which virtually every creature on Earth has, and you also give up some basic redundancy. A four-legged creature can get by on three legs in a pinch, but a biped isn't going far hopping on one foot. Also, being bipedal means that any rest state requires a change in position--you can't sleep standing up. Thus, if a bipedal mecha were to lose power--or just be turned off--it would at best be left in a vulnerable state that was easy to push over, and at worst would collapse into a heap of mangled, unconscious robot wreckage. Sure, mecha are as tall as skyscrapers, but they don't have that handy bolted-to-the-ground thing to keep them from toppling in a swift wind. (Even with quadrupeds, stability can be an issue if you don't set up a low center of gravity. Case in point: AT-ATs.)

Biologically, most bipeds started out as quadrupeds and gave up the forelegs (and four legs) to convert them into some more specialized appendage -- say, a wing or a grasping, tool-using hand. When you can flat-out design a function-specific battlebot, you don't need to make these kinds of zero-sum tradeoffs. Which brings up another point...

Robot hands are stupid

The whole point of a hand is to grasp tools and objects. That's what it's for. Now, if you're a giant robot, what exactly are you grasping, apart from the giant energy sword that exists solely to justify the creation of your giant hands? Again, when you're custom-building a combat robot, you don't have to make a generic interface like a hand, you can just weld the energy blades, rocket launchers, laser cannons and whatnot right onto the frakkin' robot where they can't be dropped.

Sure, you can pick up some cars and hurl them for sport, but that's hardly an efficient use of resources. And there are better climbing implements than human-style fingers and thumbs -- setting aside the fact that there's almost nothing out there with the structural integrity to handle the weight of a mecha trying to climb it. Also, a lion's mouth for a hand is cool looking but hideously impractical. Then again, so are flying robot lions.

Giant robots are stupid

What, exactly, is the point of being the size of the Chrysler Building, unless your job is to fight the Chrysler Building? (Please don't, the American auto industry has enough problems.) If Godzilla shows up, I might spot you the on-a-lark tactic of meeting the radioactive reptile with an equal-scale automated countermeasure, especially if conventional weaponry has failed and King Kong is busy filming a sequel with Peter Jackson. But since reality is tragically short on kaiju city-wreckers, what's the point?

Most mecha are depicted as military weapons, but not even armed navies like to build things any bigger than they have to. Aircraft carriers are a quarter-mile long because it's a necessary length to land and launch planes. Everything else about their scale flows from that design constraint. Most every classic naval battleship has been retired because speed, agility, and coordinated attack -- the kind that GPS, computerized communications, and precision-targeted ordnance make possible -- are prized over bulk tonnage. We'd rather have a swarm of destroyers and fast-attack boats than one big dreadnought, if only to avoid the issue of making a big giant target. Same goes for robot warriors.

Basically, giant humanoid military mechas are stupid

All of the above sets aside the fact that (at least according to Wired) it would cost $725 million just to build a basic mecha from existing tech, and that doesn't even include any of the cool super weapons -- or, for that matter, the actual development, design, and systems integration costs needed to build a super robot from off-the-shelf parts.

This is not to say that uber-bots will never exist, just that they won't look anything like a Gundam.

In a general sense, legs are better than wheels or even treads when it comes to dealing with uneven terrain and extreme grades. Legs don't need flat surfaces with minimal obstacles, so a quadrupedal (or better) robot is actually an advantage in many situations. Like, say, other planets that haven't seen much civilization. Thus, we're likely to see walking robots in the future -- on four or more legs. (For all the film's remaining idiocy, the AMEE droid from Red Planet is actually a pretty clever and workable take on what an explorer robot would look like.)

We may also see large-scale robots in the future as the technology becomes available to automate -- and make autonomous -- large industrial equipment. Robot cranes, trucks, excavators and loggers are very likely on the horizon. Just make sure they're programmed not to squish the environmental protesters they encounter (unless the protesters start building androids to replace their numbers, too).

Humanoid robots also have a role to play -- in places where they will operate in shared environments with humans. Every building on Earth is designed by and for humans, so rather than redesign every edifice on the planet to accommodate our new cybernetic overlords, simply make the robots human-like, so they can walk up stairs, open doors and operate human-friendly equipment with us.

Finally, we already have military robots -- they've been around since at least the Goliath tracked mines of World War II -- and they get scarier every day. Predator drones, TALON droids, and robotic rescue bears are already in service or near to it.

What is unlikely is a confluence of gigantic, humanoid, ambulatory, military robots -- better known as mecha. Anyone who says otherwise needs to detox from the anime and take an engineering course or two.

Think I'm wrong? There's all this comment space below to prove it.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

247 comments
HenryMak91
HenryMak91

War is not always won with practicality in mind. The great siege of Constantinople was won by a man who did the unexpected instead of what was practical. During the siege Mahomed and his fleet  face a long siege against the deeply entrenched Christian soldiers of Constantinople Mahomeds fleet and army was blocked from the city by a large chain that made the city's harbor unassailable. The city could not be easily stormed so Mahomed commissioned a cannon that could fire a ball for a mile. The cannon was impractically large and required sixty oxen and the assistance of 200 men to move, and could only be fired seven times a day. 

Even with this cannon Mahomed  could not take the walls of Constantinople in a timely manner without many causalities. So Mahomed's most practical play was to wait and starve the city while bombarding from the harbor with his fleet. Starving the city was not what Mahomed did instead he chose to run a gambit. Mahomed transported his fleet(light galleys) over land for ten miles in the dark with his cannons to a near by hill over looking the city and began bombarding from both harbor and land. Had Mahomed done the practical thing his fleet and army might have run it to major logistical problems. But his unexpected move allowed him victory. 


The message I am trying  to convey is this, Mechas yes very much an expensive and impractical item for war or any other reason. But necessity is the mother of invention. Is moving a ship over land stupid? Yes but if you need to move a ship over land to bombard a city then it is no longer stupid. Same applies to mecha. Is a giant bi-pedal glorified suite of armor stupid? Depends if there is a necessity for it.

wun.jee
wun.jee

Technology that is not practical right now may be practical in the future. The airplane was not practical in 1902..Hell, the airplane was not practical until the late-19-teens, early 1920s, even tho it had existed since 1903.


But why bipedal locomotion in a giant robot?


1) It works. Obviously. There are nearly 7 billion of us that use it daily and it works just fine. It is an efficient means of locomotion and load-carrying mixed with mobility and flexibility over nearly any terrain type.


2) People like to see big, badass things created in their own image. God complex? Maybe.


As for the hand thing, a grasping hand is always going to be an asset and a liability. Sure, rigidly-mounted systems might be more practical, but once you eject it (instead of carrying around dead weight after the weapons system is depleted), you'd require a facility to reattach the weapons system.


A grasping hand would be very complex with a lot of moving parts and that always spells reliability issues, but all one has to do is look at the myriad of robotic ROVs, especially deep-ocean ROVs, to see just how invaluable a tool a grasping hand is.


You really can't say something that advanced "IS DUMB BECAUSE IT'S IMPRACTICAL NOW!!"


Otherwise, every revolution thruout human history, from the wheel, to the steam engine, to the automobile to the airplane, was "DUMB AND IMPRACTICAL" at one point in time.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I just love that this discussion is now over 7 years old and is still drawing new comments.  Jay, if you're out there, buddy: you done good.


There are countless billions of quadrupeds that get around faster and with more stability and redundancy than us bipeds.  That doesn't even account for the trillions of sextupulpeds, or whatever the term is for all those six-legged bugs.


None of those existing ROVs are giant-sized.  If you're going to design a large weapons system from scratch, why cling to grasping as a method of attaching / detaching peripherals?  Bayonet-style mounts and electromagnetics leap to mind.


Several people have mentioned tanks and airplanes as originally ineffective.  That doesn't account for all the originally ineffective military systems that have been abandoned as unsalvageable.

kidd42o
kidd42o

At least in the Gundam Wing Universe

there was an apparent leap in technology.

Humans were mining the moon.

if this proved to give better or more precious resouces for more effciency or better ease of, 

its totally Practical and Likely to occur.

u can mine 19 times more with say a human 19 times bigger.

I dont believe the Gundams started off as weapons, but tools eventually developed in to weapons probably in correlations of the technological boom that predated to create it, i.e. creating larger wealth that equals greed and all the other stuff that comes with it.

Gundam wing is my favorite mech take on suits.

tha first human tractor evolved in to a tank of death....

PC Ferret
PC Ferret

I would like to point out that "mecha" is not just bipedal humanoid robots. That's just one kind of mecha. Mecha generally includes mostly-mechanical (as opposed to organic) self-mobile manufactured artifacts such as M1 Abrams battletanks, James Bond's Aston-Martin, Arleigh Burke DDG's, Boeing 747's, spacecraft, and even AMEE from Red Planet.


How about a four-legged mecha with manipulatory appendages at the ends of each of its telescoping limbs to allow dynamic optimization of the body for running or climbing, a cheetah-style flexible spine to allow for greater extension when running, and squirrel hips to permit climbing down head forward as well as up?

DavidTheConsultant
DavidTheConsultant

Ultraman isn't a mech, he's a living being. That's why his biedalism works. 

And he is a noble being at that, who sacrificed his own life to give life to the pilot he killed. Sorta Christo-metaphoric.

Gen.Wayvern
Gen.Wayvern

(Sorry for this repost, I just had to correct some grammar flaws)

Take heed of his advice, but don't take it to heart. After all, a plane was impractical before the Wright Brothers came in and revolutionized the design. Now we have Boeng 707's that take the principle to new heights (take it as a pun if you want). The first tanks were impractical in the early fields of World War I, then the Americans came and made it better. Now , every army that could afford those "Large, bullet soaking, slow moving, cans with treads and wheels"(I forgot who said this, so if anyone knows please say) has a tank and it's truly come far from it's roots. Tell what it has accomplished to a World War I person and they would think your crazy. Note that things are always getting better and that the next breakthrough could always be around the corner. Sure scientists and military "jocks", as you would call them, would say it's impossible or even "impractical", but that's what they said about the inventions that I mentioned earlier and now it's totally normal AND PRACTICAL. Who knows, when that breakthrough is discovered and the first Knightmare Frame or Gundam (I'm a fan of both) rolls out of the production line and faces conventional military vehicles in the filed of war (and if they can find a way to either make them move like they do in the anime's or if not then make them as tough as hell) then you can be certain that the military jocks who love their tanks and other military vehicles so much would either cry or be in disbelief as it utterly wipes out those obsolete and , at that point , impractical weapons. (oh, and if you people can spread this message to all those Mech disbelievers then I would most appreciate this)

I'll leave you with these 

- "If it can be dreamed , it can be done. Otherwise, how can you even conceive of it? " ( I don't know who said the first part, but the second part is mine)

- Bee's are not supposed to fly aerodynamically, but how come there are millions of them? If a living thing could do it and all it does is sting, pollinate and make honey then what more for the "superior" species of this planet wanting to make something like a non-living giant Mech robot? Just saying...

Gen.Wayvern
Gen.Wayvern

Take heed of his advice, but don't take it to heart. After all, a plane was impractical before the Wright Brothers came in and revolutionized the design. Now we have Boeng 707's that take the principle to new heights (take it as a pun if you want). The first tanks were impractical in the early fields of World War I, then the Americans came and made it better. Now , every army that could afford those "Large, bullet soaking, slow moving, cans with treads and wheels"(I forgot who said this, so if anyone knows please say) has a tank and it's truly come far from it's roots. Tell what it has accomplished to a World War I person and they would think your crazy. Note that things are always getting better and that the next breakthrough could always be around the corner. Sure scientists and military "jocks", as you would call them, would say it's impossible or even "impractical", but that's what they said about the inventions that I mentioned earlier and now it's totally normal AND PRACTICAL. Who knows, when that breakthrough is discovered and the first Knightmare Frame or Gundam (I'm a fan of both) rolls out of the production line and faces conventional military vehicles in the filed of war (and if they can find a way to either make them move like they do in the anime's or if not then make them as tough as hell) then you can be certain that the military jocks who love their tanks and other military vehicles so much would either cry or be in disbelief as it utterly wipes out those obsolete and , at that point , impractical weapons. (oh, and if you people can spread this message to all those Mech disbelievers then I would most appreciate this)

I'll leave you with this "If it can be dreamed , it can be done. Otherwise, how can you even conceive of it? " ( I don't now who said the first part, but the second part is mine)

TimesNewRoman
TimesNewRoman

I mostly agree with this article. I still think people will clamor for these kinds of technology (perhaps not to the scale of towering skyscraper high mecha) but the military will probably not pursue giant mecha as a viable resource. Sorry mecha fans but Its far too unlikely. As of now militaries seem to be downsizing, focusing on smaller, modular technology to fit logistical requirements. Traditionally, offense has always proceeded defense in military technology. Just look how air power as almost completely mitigated the impact of armored columns in recent history. It simply doesn't make sense to have large, heavy targets that are easily singled out in conflict. Having a gigantic mecha would be akin to commissioning a naval dreadnaught in this day and age. There is a reason ships that large were decommissioned. Things are only ever as big as they have to be.

My second point is on the structure of the human body. Sad to say, but the human body is far from the most efficient combat machine on earth. We have to put our pride behind us on this one. We are slow, ungainly and awkward in comparison to other animals and even then we have found technologies that can surpass these (The wheel for example is far more efficient than the leg is on flat ground). Any celerity we may seem to exhibit pales in comparison to other species. You can always improve on the human body right? (an extra pair of arms would be pretty useful right?) Why on earth would we subject technology to the same restrictions we possess?

The way most militaries choose what vehicles to contract is usually based on roles and requirements. So lets create a hypothetical role for a mecha. Lets say that a military required a high mobility platform for uneven terrain that could effectively manipulate the environment while carrying a weapons payload or hardpoints for ordinance and or fulfill/supplement the role of mechanized armor. If a vehicle of this sort were to be commissioned, the most efficient and cost effective design would win. Of course modularity is key and will be for time to come so it must be capable of being effective in a multitude of other roles in order to coordinate with footsoldiers. So we want a vehicle, ideally with a small yet modifiable profile that has independent, yet stable (no bipeds) points of motivation (Legs, track pods etc) that can move quickly over rough, uneven and smooth ground (That means integrated wheels/tracks) and can, if needed pick up, carry and manipulate materials with fine motor control (Any number of integrated manipulators, they need not be like arms).


Lets see what logical conclusions we can come to.

Noli Lado
Noli Lado

Basing the military applications of having bipedal or humanoid robots is not impractical. The human body is basically an excellent all around machine. Why wouldn't a huge, armored, versatile, humanoid tank be stupid? If the technology allows it then why not? We are still moving on and improving with our technology. Calling it stupid at this point is basically, well, stupid. They were possible in those universes simply because the situation and technology of their universe allowed them to.  Besides, not all mechs are exactly Chrysler Building sized. Think basic, like the Zaku or the Labors from Patlabor. They are like 2-3 stories high with not that much exaggeration with speed or size unlike the Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann universe sized mech. Even the Matrix's Armored Personnel Unit is a good example of what a mech can be, given the available and existing technology is able to do it.

Really now... There are other mechs that can be a more better starting point and basis. But when I saw that he mentioned Ultraman, everything almost went null and void in this rant. The Ultramen are an alien race from the Land of Light  (or Planet Ultra) at Nebula M78. Not a giant mech.

http://ultra.wikia.com/wiki/Ultramen

nerd hurdles
nerd hurdles

I've been saying this for years. Wish I'd read article this before ranting about mechs on an Anime episode of our podcast. Good work. The nerdiverse needs more men like you.

TheBacktalker5000
TheBacktalker5000

"ok this guys a noob no one listen to him" |: ( Whatever: listen, robots arent all impractical, it depends on the scenario and exactly what model you are using. yes, a gundam is a total waste of time and money, considering its more effective to use the money to buy that many soldiers instead, which using stuff like RPG's could probably take down a Gundam anyway, rendering the whole thing useless. "wait this isnt a pro-robot arguement" shut up HOWEVER! gundams were created in their world as an answer to other giant mecha which somehow became more effective than a mechas worth of soldiers. It which case, developing giant robots to combat giant robots where conventional methods arent working is the most logical solution. In todays world however, there is not need and a gundam is ridiculous that doesnt mean the idea of a giant (as in, fairly large) mecha is out of the question take: Code Geass Knightmare Frames or Front Mission Evolved Wanzers = the Knightmares were developed by Brittania as a means to take Japan quickly and efficiently without drawing out a long war and causing too much collateral, because the Japanese controlled 70% of the worlds new super-fuel, making an extended war of attrition with japan impossible. Hence, the construction of Knightmare frames: large humanoid mecha about the height of 2 or 3 fairly tall men, that use speed as their main advantage. Yes, they are bipedal, but they don't really walk, because thats slow. Instead, they use landspinners: kinda like roller skates attatched to the back of the feet that can be raised and lowered according to when needed. Using these, they can scale up two adjacent buildings and move much faster than people or other armoured vehicles, and are better used for surgical strikes and resolving quick battles using surprise as their main weapon, whilst also using very destructive weaponry due to their size, making them effective battle robots. However, they arent designed for large scale battles (and anyway Knightmare frames arent the best example, since they are powered by a super fuel that doesnt exist) - however, if they used normal fuels today (provided we have enough) they would have only a few minutes operational time, even more emphasising their effectiveness only as surgical strikers, reconaissance, battlefield support, etc. they would also have a similar morale effect as tanks, and probably be more effective in small-scale combat than a tanks anyway then, there are the Front Mission Evolved Wanzers: similar in size to the Knightmare frames and also use skates to move quickly, but are capable of walking very slowly as well (about the walking pace of a normal person) on bipedal legs. they can also be outfitted with different parts and equipment depending on the situation, like the aforementioned four-legs for all terrain and heavy assault configurations, and hover-decks for traversing water. Highly unconventional in wars of attrition or large scale combat, but unmatched in resolving border skirmishes quickly, especially in cold-war like scenarios. Basic weapons include small assault rifles, small machine guns, sniper rifles, missile launchers, club-like melee weapons for meta impact and various, small shoulder mounted weapons like the stuff attatched to helicopters like the Little Bird. they are piloted by a single person (like Knightmare frames) are faster than most land-based vehicles and larger boats thanks to skates and hover-decks (hover decks are like hovercraft) and to top it off, they cannot carry more weight that the energy output allows. it is also likely they could use combat knives and wristblades for other, non-military purposes like cutting trees, ropes, etc, rather than actual combat. So really, the Wanzer is more like a fast, maneuverable weapons platform rather than a gundam-like mecha, designed for resolving quick skirmishes, destroying targets and providing battlefield support. They could also be equipped with shields (not force fields, actual shields) that could absorb ordnance and small arms fire and protect the Wanzer for a short time before being destroyed, leaving the wanzer itself as vulnerable to the same stuff as before: small arms fire, not a problem. ordnance: use speed to avoid, but being hit probably won't disable it. In short, smaller, lighter, faster mechas are more likely over actual gundam-style mechas (though it would be really cool) and would never be used as real large-scale battle combat machines, especially in place of soldiers. they would also need sand panels for desert terrain, but in a place like the middle east, where there is nothing but small-scale battles frequently, Knightmare frame or Wanzer style mechs would rule the battlefield. Further, the idea of a single Deus ex Machina gundam hopping, skipping and jumping (especially jumping) around the battle field destroying everything with lightsabers is some messed up acid-induced fantasy if you intend to use it for real life. First off, jumping is out of the question. leaping into the air is not so much the problem as landing: which would break the robots legs without some serious suspension. second, nothing is that tough. one good hit with a tank-killing rocket or ballistic missile, or seeking missile, and its all over. theres also the matter of fuelling the robot, and dont get me started on lightsabers, especially at the size we're talking about. hands are an issue, but the need for hands isnt so much as holding or climbing stuff since it probably isnt necessary. However, if a robot like a Wanzer with attatched weapons runs out of ammo or has its arm broken off or its weapon damaged, its screwed, with no more weapon capabilites and is basically a walking target. With even basic hands however, it can drop the weapon and get a new one, improvise or pick up ammunition. Non military purposes include delicate manipulation and heavy lifting, as well as opening doors that say "pull" and those dont necessarily require hands as intricate as a gundam's, but they DO require basic hands. I think i covered everything..... except cost okay, smaller, lightweight mecha like a Wanzer, using lightweight weapons are obviously fairly cheap compared to a fully operational, weapons capable gundam, and probably about the same cost as a few modern tanks or fighter jets, and very few are needed for their purpose: no more than three would be needed for any mission a robot like that would be required to handle, and provided there are no problems and they make it back safely, they can be deployed somewhere else without any difficulty with maybe a few minor repairs. They also inflict morale damage on enemy soldiers to see a towering giant robot skating towards them at high speeds. ( i say giant, probably no higher than a small, two storey house... maybe not even that) and boost morale for allies. In the long run, even a small number of Knightmare or Wanzer style mechas would be cost effective, because is is very likely they could quickly resolve the war in the middle east with quick strikes and battlefield support, and save lives. The control systems both are based on dual-joystick and control panel functions with voice-controlled functions too for the pilots, so there isnt some uber-expensive Avatar stuff necessary for controls (as for cockpit size, the Knightmare frames cockpit sticks out at the back, which is why the landspinners also stick out backwards, so it accomodates a person, and Wanzer's torse unit houses the cockpit and energy supply and the head and backup cameras, so they are fairly large but can be lightweight and their four leg configuration can house further energy output devices and support more weight) So, the conclusion is, Gundams are ridiculous, Wanzers are perfect mechas arent stupid, they are in fact necessary for the battles of the modern world (a bold statement, and probably not necessary, but would be extremely helpful.)

jameel.aboulhosn
jameel.aboulhosn

You can sleep standing up, and mechs could rest in a standing position (though as in BT it would be a bad idea not to have them in a bay where they are supported, for the heavier ones). I agree with most of your points, as should most intelligent mech fans (sorry I can't use the word mecha because anyone who thinks there is more than one good mech franchise is highly delusional). Fortunately most of your argument is only applicable to the retarded series which fall under this "uncool" category I have deemed. I'm actually fairly surprised you did not deeply involve the "Square-cube" theory of biomechanicsin your argument - this seems to be the only halfway legitimate argument against mechs, other than the problem of dealing with stability and recoil of heavy caliber projectile weapons like cannons or missiles. Though it has no scientific evidence to support it when it comes to giant robots, especially considering it is an argument against something that should be centuries ahead of our technology

seanferd
seanferd

people are awfully attached to their giant mecha robots

dragonreaper
dragonreaper

this post about Why giant mecha robots are stupid, is stupid. in 1997 Ken Olson stated "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home" bill gates once said "we will never make a 32 bit OS" in 1961 T. Craven said "There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the US" New York Time said "A rocket will never be able to leave Earth's atmosphere." in 1936 18 months before kitty hawk Simon Newcomb said "flight by machines heavier then air is unpractical and insignificant, if not utterly impossible" "The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine." Ernest Rutherford, shortly after splitting the atom for the first time. oh and Albert Einstein said "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. it would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will" just because we dont have the technology now to make a giant battle mech a viable means of combat doesnt mean we never will. infact as more science fiction becomes science fact. a giant mech might actually come to be. for 1 very simple reason. a giant mech that has the str of a tank, the firepower of a couple of tanks can hold an area much easier then deploying many tanks and allot of soldiers.

RyuseiDate
RyuseiDate

uhm... so... you, a so called science fiction fan, declares that giant robots are stupid because they only work in fiction. the fact they are impractical is well... secondary to the fact tha, you are reading fiction. Second, humanoid robots are the response to mankind's large ego. else we'd be producing all purpose hovering spheres of death. ... so... why don't you rant about how stupid the scientist are for not being able to translate all your supposed to be realisticly possible sci-fi into actual technology and ... well... let the fiction be impractical and entertainment-purpose-only fiction.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

coming in late, but a few points on the other side of the equation. First, I'll concede that for most applications, especially military ones, special build jobs are much more effective and efficient, like the ones used for bomb disposal and the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Edit to clarify, this is especially applicable to GIANT robots being unsuitable. Now on to the general robot discussion part. The main reason science focusses on building humanoid type robots is to save money and resources in the long run. Sounds silly, but it's true and accurate. Why, you ask. Because we build machinery and equipment to be used by us humans, if we have a humanoid robot it can sit in the same seat and use the same range of machinery. If we build a robot as each type of machine, we use more computing power and have difficulties when it comes to wanting or needing to have direct human control. A humanoid robot programmed to do road construction just sits in the various devices and operates them the same as a man does. Military mechanoids are a valid concept, but not giant ones. Have you read the BOOK Starship Troopers and the description of the Powered Armour they wear in that. Think of an older style space suit made of kevlar type material, but stronger, loaded with power operated arms and legs so the trooper inside can run faster, survive being shot up better, and can easily carry his own heavy weapons around. Just an extension of the current trend for better individual armour and harder hitting personal weapons. Kind of like a small personal walking tank. heck we already have powered lifters that people climb in and use to help move heavy gear around in many warehouses, this is a military extension of them. Long term, fully automated military mechanoids that are computer or remotely controlled are likely to be spider like with eight, ten or twelve legs as a legged robot can more easily go where a treaded one can't, the extra legs provide for more stability in uneven ground than two do, making them more useful. We mostly use treads at the moment as they're having trouble getting the legs to work well.

ms2000
ms2000

with computers going from room sized calculators to $800.00 8core processor 32gb ddr4 ram ssd harddrive speeed speed speed cheaper cheaper cheaper...etc murphys law is eventually bound to catch up with the still sluggish robot technology. wait till they can stick a chip in each moving joint..asimo is already way outdated. and the idea behind a giant robot for military? well i would say that a giant mobile homebase capable of defense and offense would make for a pretty effective solution when it came time to launching an all out assault on a country. think of the death star not an atat. being able to fully mobilize your entire military force in one or several giant units would be a higly lethal and economical means of ass kicking.

james_voris
james_voris

Instead of mecha-robots the better ultimate weapon would be (Pariah- robots (Pre-programmable Aerial Remote Intelligent Amalgam Hybrid) or Fimarc-robots (Flying independent multi application remote controlled) - robot that are so tiny they almost to small to see. (no-see-um size or small mosquito) Maybe they couldn't knock over the Chrysler Building in a single swath, but maybe they could fly like a bullet, carry biological weapons, used for intelligence gathering, and maybe enough of them could carry an acid to infect the steel of something like the Chrysler Building. (or C-4)

drago2453
drago2453

well not a gigantic mech one will do but maybe a mech ((10-12 metres in height correct me if i'm wrong)) suit would be possible, yes it's not as nimble as a ordinary grunt but it maybe powerful and more efficient in carrying heavy artillery made for the mech..not exactly like mech movies but like Warhammer. and there a combat mobile suit is born.

mad_donut_man
mad_donut_man

god, you're an idiot. trolling millions of nerds is so fucking awesome. you should go eat shit and die. we already know all this shit. obviously a humanoid robot would be a universal sort of deal. lets look at the major goals achieved by a humanoid form- 1. legs for walking, running, jumping, kicking ass 2. arms for picking shit up, gesturing for non-verbal communication, holding different types of weapons, punching other massive robots. 3. agility and dexterity in combat situations since our tech falls miserably short of achieving any of these goals, and yes, giant robots are fucking useless and retarded- NOW. once many specialized robots exist, eventually bipedal robots that are somewhat humanoid in nature will make their appearance. the only factor that determines whether bipedal, humanoid robots gain in size is usage, of course. purely military use of humanoid robots will change the size regardless. if massive robots are unstoppable in combat, obviously they will be produced massively. if their performance is poor, they will release 1 or 2 betas, and stick to human-sized robots (or smaller). the chances of robots getting smaller is much, much higher. the perspective here is based largely on military aspects: tactical use. if inexpensive, smaller robots can be produced by an army with poor foot numbers, they would gain a massive advantage on the field. accompanied by a small number of larger robots, and recon robots that can feed data directly to the entire mechanized group, the army would be a very effective one indeed. you're looking at 200-300 years for the development of this kind of tech. so yes, giant robots are stupid- now. in the future their existence hangs in the balance; for who are we to say what direction war engineering is headed in? purely a guided ballistics environment? bio-engineering the soldier to have inexpensive targeting information? aerial domination? or a combination thereof? to say that one element of the future battlefield will not exist is ignorant. "take an engineering class or two". kiss my fucking ass.

jgwinner
jgwinner

What about Gigantic tanks? i.e. Keith Laumer's Bolos, or say Steve Jackson's Ogres. I think these are much more practical, as their size means bigger power plants (nuclear), and more armor. Ground pressure on a large tank will be MUCH lower than the ground pressure for a gigantic robot. Those big robots would only be able to walk in hard, rocky ground, you could forget crossing rivers or streams. == John ==

Histrion2
Histrion2

I understand the Japanese cultural motivation for putting giant metal samurai (or whatever the proper term is, before I get jumped on by the Nipponophiles) in the sky, but anyone who actually says we should try to build something like this? Yeah, get a grip. Pretty much everything in Jay's article is on the money. Although Red Planet did have some good music.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Same ideas, just smaller. power source? hover and fly? weapons? Based on the ads, it looks like they took the stupid transformers point of view that the armor appears almost out of no where, without ripping his cloths off. I expect to be disappointed.

darksparcs
darksparcs

LMAO.... I for one, have to be the BIGGEST fan of Mecha-Based applications on this forum - with 10 years of developement efforts put into game programming based upon the interactive BattleTech Mecha application... AKA MechWarrior, AKA MechAssault. I however understand that REALITY is something totally different that imagination. Why are they ULTIMATELY - AND - ABSOLUTELY impractical?... Anyone here ever heard of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP)? they are actually natural events triggered in various degree from the electric bursts that occur between our nervous synapses to the world vaporizing event of a Hypernova. Today the applicable uses of this force is utilized in scientific research done at the nano and atomic level - which includes the cellular level within the boimedical industries -, propulsion ideologies, antigravitational property studies, ballistic applications, along with the manipulation of frequencies to creat weapons from radiowaves that otherwise would have just been a little wave of movement buzzing along thier evolutionarily assigned paths from one end of this universe to the other. HOWEVER... the biggest understanding we have of EMP is that the sphere of it's radiance also has the ability to intensify the electron fields within any given element to the point to where any matterial designed to conduct electron energy (any electrical grid or electronically driven, receptive, and/or powered device will suffice... It's slowly but surely being proven that related energies, such as ELF waves, can also affect BIOLOGICAL electrical systems as well)which has specific laboratory rated tolerances, would be overwhelmed beyond thier rated capacities to contain a given pinpoint or targeted surge to destroy such materials, causing the surge to access an unchallenged path to it's force, which in turn causes the surge to - within literally nanoseconds, dissapate into thin air. any materials destroyed by intensified surges like this too, will vaporise with the initiating energies. EMP also has the ability to instantly stop a fusion based engine dead in its tracts by disrupting the dynamics involved with that technical process (AKA turn a blazing hot sun into a giant, impacted chunk of cold Iron...) The Communications blackouts that occurred both in 1986, as well as 1989, were the result of dynamic EMP surges that assaulted our atmosphere which were the result of enormous Solar flares that generated them. What's so specific about EMP that we do know about is it's ability to , at the very least, destroy or badly damage anything that has POTENTIAL to bear electrons (AKA - electricity...), even altering such elements from conductive ones to non conductive elements that became inert due to thier properties being so dynamically stripped of thier electon orbits, which in turn changes thier frequency capabilities. That being given, this pretty much is saying that any system based upon electonic influences will be "neutralized"... AKA inert. ##POOF## machine shuts down, never able to restart without critical componant repair... after the EMP blast all an opponant has to do, like has been mentioned earlier, is push the inert scap object into a nearby recycling bin and laugh at thier enemy's inevitable sobs that beg for thier undeserved mercy. why would you create a hammer out of diamond?... basically. Even Superman had his kryptonic nemesis to keep him shaking in his boots, right? =)

seanferd
seanferd

Because the nanobots will destroy them.

seanferd
seanferd

Never could understand the whole Giant (Humanoid) Robot thing. Even as a child with a love for Science Fiction. Then again, maybe that is exactly why I don't get the mecha thing.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

I only read the first 11 posts out of the 70some already here and I'm seeing more flaming than true discussion. I apologize to anyone after the first 11 that make valid points. However, the blog seems to make a number of assumptions based on Manga while at least mentioning something that came from an entirely different source (but may have been inspired by Manga.) I'm speaking of Battletech by FASA (apparently now owned by WizKids, according to Wikipedia). Battletech started out with technology that could exist for the battlemechs. Essentially they were ambulatory weapons systems, meaning gun platforms on legs. Some of these designs were essentially humanoid, putting the operator in the 'head' for best visibility of the battleground and the weapons usually on the arms, chest, shoulders and/or back for offense and defense. This also had the 'pilot' in an ejectable container that protected him/her during the ejection process, something no modern fighter aircraft does any more (with the exception of the few F-111s still in service with the Australian Air Force.) No modern ground equipment provides this protection for the operator if his vehicle is destroyed. The concept is simple; the execution is difficult at best--for now. Use the operator's own sense of balance to trigger a number of heavy gyroscopes within the body of the mech to precess, thus acting to counter any outside force on the erect body. The gyroscopic technology is used in some experimental seagoing vessels today to fight wave action and maintain stability for cargo and some cruise ships. I expect this technology will be refined over the coming years. On the other hand, the human interface for this technology isn't ready yet and I'm not sure it's even being studied as such since most prosthetic technologies at the moment are working on making computers trigger solenoids and motors rather than using signals directly from the brain. The humanoid body concept basically works on the idea that it's easier for a pilot to 'feel' the mech as an extension of his body than to try to operate potentially hundreds of buttons and switches, even if they're arranged on a pair of joysticks. The best modern application of this idea that I can recall are the gaming gloves available for one of the console gaming systems. This is one reason why the cockpits of modern aircraft are being simplified as much as possible so the pilot can keep his attention outside of the plane and maintain situational awareness. Once the system becomes an extension of your own body, you don't have to think about actually controlling all the little parts. In other words, unlike most Manga and Anim?? mentioned in the article, Battletech was well thought out and very conceivable. The one point made about stability after being shut down was usually covered either by the mecha either transforming to a more stable configuration (i.e. becoming an aircraft or other more conventional vehicle) or docking itself into a service bay. Even the few live-action movies that created mechs through CGI at least bothered to have a shut- down mode that lowered the center of gravity somewhat and tended to lock the limbs against pre-set physical locks to minimize the effects of outside forces. Yes, I agree that seeing a mech on the battlefield is still in the future, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

a.southern
a.southern

Three legs is generally accepted as the minimum for stability.....

Some.Random.Anonymous.Guy
Some.Random.Anonymous.Guy

"You could get by with three legs, but you you abandon bilateral symmetry" Only if your talking about just lopping off one of the legs from a quadrupedal body layout. A three-legged animal with a right leg, a left leg and a center leg (presumably positioned fore or aft for camera-tripod-like stability) could still be just as bilaterally symetric as we are. Now as for a mech, an anthropoid shape might perhaps be useful not for a robot, but for something a person would directly pilot by moving corresponding body parts (with the person's movement restricted when the rig's motors encounter resistance). For while an anthropoid layout would be unlikely to be good for an automated weopon, it could perhaps be useful in piloted unit that takes advantage of how we are already used to moving, making it maneuverable and flexible in terms of usage. (It might be useful not exactly as a weopon itself but as a supporting unit that could help clear obstacles out of the way, help free a vehicle that is caught on some obstacle, etc. An extremely large scale would be inadvisable since any tripping would be catastrophic. You're missing the point about giant mechs though-- yeah they're not realistic, almost anybody with half a brain can already see that -- but they are fun as fantasy. Reading this piece was like reading something by a kid who's immensely proud that he just figured out that Santa can't be real, because "dude OMG THERE'S TOTALLY NO WAY the sleigh could go fast enough to do the job without splattering Santa during acceleration and deceleration!" No sh1t, Sherlock, and yet it's still an entertaining story. Sorry if you thought you were having some sort of brilliant original realization, but most people just like giant mechs in anime and stuff because... well, they're cool. Next week on Sci Fi Rant: Why lightsabers are inefficient weopons.

jdclyde
jdclyde

are the people watching them expect them to be intelligent.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

I think the future of mecha is more likely to be smaller. Think of a compromise between Michael Chriction's Prey nanobots, smaller aerial drones, small ground vehicles working with something like an unmanned tank. The tank can be the main weapons platform/support? Sorry I'm winging it here. LOL As for anime, most of it isn't my thing. My brother is into it and there have been a couple of series I watched with him that I liked. But then I liked Monster Rancher and Mighty Max, don't see many fans of them either.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If nothing else, you got the attention of the kinder with this one... BTW, I agree 100%. There's a reason the military looked at this in the 50s and moved in different directions.

mindgamez_
mindgamez_

OK, while I agree that building bipedal robots is not really the best way to go you miss the point that the concept behind many of your examples is that they are vehicles. And why build a bipedal mechanized vehicle? Because, i assume, you walk on 2 legs. While I can't really say there is any good reason to make a giant walking tank, a bipedal scout vehicle that can traverse rough terrain at a good clip is a point I would argue. Yes, the fictional portrayal is not reasonable but to dismiss the idea of mechanized bipedal systems because Voltron is stupid is like dismissing space travel because you saw Flash Gordon.

Bizzo
Bizzo

A couple of reasons spring to mind. They're generally made by some psychotic megalomaniac who wants to destroy the world, enslave humanity or rule the universe. They think they're a God, and what did God do? Make us in his own image. I also think that it makes them scarier, the fact that they look ???human???; hands, head, face, legs etc., rather than just some metal box on caterpillar tracks. Or, they could be just emulating what's gone on before, not realising that the reason that the giant robots had arms legs and a head was because it was a man in a suit? These mecha robots and the "bad guy" always get defeated by some hero or other, that's why they can't be too intelligent. It's always been a "brain over brawn" fight. The baddies are always bigger and stronger, but the goodies (not Bill Oddie et. al.) have the intelligence. Generally it's a metaphor for bullying/survival of the fittest etc. Always comes up in stories, "David and Goliath" for example. Remember Achilles from Ray Harryhausen's "Jason and the Argonauts"? Was he the first Giant Mecha? With something that big, you can't fight it with strength you need to fight it with intelligence. If they also have intelligence then we're stuck, humanity loses hope, it all goes horribly wrong, and we end up in slavery to some giant rust-bucket. Pah! Not going to happen, Hollywood won't allow it, we all need happy endings.

delf20k
delf20k

I can see one trend that may make upright war machines practical. More and more top attack anti tank weapons are being made so a smaller top surface may become desirable.

bill12345
bill12345

I am amazed at what you missed. OF COURSE the idea is impractical NOW. We can only ROLL and FLY and FLOAT well NOW. But that will NOT always be the case. Say you are out of ammo.. then your ONLY option is to pick up a car and HURL it. Say you have a STEEP mountain to climb... then your ONLY option is to CLIMB it. Say you are out of ammo in the middle of nowhere... then your ONL option is to go hand-to-hand. Say you need to get to the other side of WATER... then your only option may be to SWIM it. In other words, you can build a special-case weapon that is CLEARLY more optimized than a Mecha, but you will NOT come up with anything more VERSATILE!!! But, how could that POSSIBLY surprise you, when evolution rubs that truth right in your face every time you look in the mirror? 'Opposable thumbs', anyone? You build your super-optimized BATTLE-TANK, or whatever you optimize perfectly to fight a specific war in a specific environment. My Mecha will swim across the lake, wait for your tank to run out of ammo, swim back across the lake, lift up your tank, and drop it in the water. (it happened in Iraq. they ran off a bridge. into the river. they all died. the tank was highly optimized for only one thing, and then could not handle the un-expected). Now, if ONLY we had a way to see what sort of weapon might be able to handle the WIDEST VARIETY of cases... OH WAIT. Evolution already did that problem for us. Look in a freakin mirror! austin meyer AKA DENNY CRANE!

puppetchaos
puppetchaos

I'd hate to say it, but I've heard this rant dozens of times before. My one cousin sometimes sounds like this, he's an engineer himself, and he's a nice guy, but sometimes he just doesn't 'get it' as to why people like absurdly unrealistic entertainment that has no justification in science. Giant robots in anime and videogames aren't meant to be practical and OMG REALISTIC. It's not hard science fiction, and there ain't nothing wrong with fantasy. Mecha, at least the anime-type, won't ever exist, true... but that's why they're so great. In a sense, you could say the mecha is a conflation of the knight's armor and the knight's horse. It's a more romantic notion of warfare, only with robots and lasers instead of horses and swords. Because robots and lasers are inherently awesome. Basically, the part of me that loves giant city-stomping robots is the same part of me that wants a lightsaber, a flying car, and telekinetic powers. Are they possible? No. But it's sure entertaining. Also, it amuses me to see the other comments to the effect of: "I hate anime because it's all like Yugioh and DBZ!" ... I think those people should watch a japanese-animated movie like Steamboy (an excellent film despite the name, it's almost like what Disney COULD'VE been today) and come back and tell me that all anime sucks and is just like DBZ or Yugioh. (which are horrible representatives of anime in general, I think)

mobilesuitkampfer
mobilesuitkampfer

Is that with time, you can ditch the fiction part. I'll agree. Right now, bipedal 'mecha' are impractical and too expensive to make use of. A century ago, turning a simple atomic building block into a city-leveling explosive was a silly, impractical notion as well. One must never forget the power of invention and where it brings us. Future systems that are becoming reality now, such as motion-response and hover equipment, would greatly open up the use of a 'mech', no matter the size. A twenty foot tall behemoth that can match the pilot's responses in real-time with all the warning systems that could be granted from such a massive portable array and fully armed with weaponry could be devastating. A hovering war tank with grappling arms and legs for rougher terrain is also quite viable. The human is a rare anomaly, it's true. Bipedal motion and precise manipulators put us where we are now. We've built war machines built off of bears and birds already, and a human with a weapon in their hands can defeat them. When the time is right, a war machine based off of ourselves would undoubtedly have the greatest advantage, as long as it would have full access to what makes a human body so adaptable. Until then, hands and legs can wait.

wetflame
wetflame

The main problem with this article is the somewhat nasally, college student kind of tone that it has throughout. Oh wow! I've discovered MECHS AREN'T PRACTICAL. No duh. You're not wording it any better than anyone else has done before. Most of us understand. The fact is that you miss the point of Mecha Anime ENTIRELY. Mechs ARE cool. PART of the cool is that they're impractical. You're forgetting quite how delusional human beings can be - after all, we are building bipedal robots, we are not the most efficient species - what if there's some insane mass movement to use giant robots just because it's the "done thing"? Sure it's ILLOGICAL but we're humans! I mean, look at how religions and conventions and traditions can take hold. Giant robots are harkening back to the old days of warfare, when there was pride and glory and you actually saw something of the person you had to kill. The problem here is that you only use logic very simply, a simple path from A to B. This is the nasally college student thing. You've just learned critical thinking and some basic biology and physics and think you've happened upon some new INCREDIBLE discoveries to show those damn hippies with their damn giant robots. But the fact is, that logic is ridiculously complex. While logic dictates mechs are impractical, as was said, humans are impractical, and there may be some OTHER reason, why these fictional worlds use them. There is usually some mysterious force - Getter Rays, Spiral power. It's not fair to include Super Robots in the equation since they KNOW they're fantasy. You are part of a trend I dislike, the "Mundanists". Super-Atheists, of a sort. Basically you think that the more pessimistic, mundane your views are, the more correct they are, the more reasonable a person you are. I dispise this. I remember reading an argument on another form about some Sci-Fi show that had mechs vs. tanks, and the guy describe the basic happenings, and how the race with Tanks won, and they "Kicked ass" until they got HOVER Tanks, when they REALLY kicked ass. This is what bothers me. Tanks do not kick ass! They're boring. They have no personality. They're practical for smashing through stuff and long range combat, but not for the ridiculous situations you get in anime. You are pushing for realism in fantasy when you aren't even 100% if there if people won't suddenly become so illogical as to build giant robots and fly them around in real life. Heck, one guy's already building one. I can't stand this. People getting excited over mundane things for no reason. This is what I mean by "Super Atheists". These are the kind of guys you encounter on forums like Stardestroyer.net This bizarre brand of Atheist that aren't happy just being logical, and have to convince themselves that their non spiritual lives by finding worth in the materialistic, the mundane, purposely getting excited over things that are ultimately quite bleak, just to be "mature". As opposed to real atheists, who can actually enjoy things like Super Robots for what they are. Mundanists are one of the biggest problems with today's world - even though they claim to be socially progressive - they suck the life out of everything in other ways. The problem is, reason, logic, are tools - not limits. You turn them into cages. There was a show made about overcoming this Mundanity- GURREN LAGANN - and it was FAR more entertaining than any of your faux-intellectual wank will ever be. At least Super Robot shows, unlike you, know they're stupid. You're saying nothing new, in a particularly uninteresting way. This is for my co/m/rades.

lickamyballz
lickamyballz

Fail!! Ultraman isn't a robot, and you're not a writer.

Ryan.Marlow
Ryan.Marlow

"This is not to say that uber-bots will never exist, just that they won???t look anything like a Gundam." This part is right on target. User vjettlun mentions Mechanized Propulsion Systems, Inc. (www.MechaPS.com), a southern California company (which I actually represent) that's up to about 90% physical completion on an "ugly prototype" of an eminently practical mecha. Cheap development using existing, common technologies, design that is a clean compromise between human-like layout and machine balancing and safety concerns, interchangeable tool mounts rather than fixed hands, rough terrain navigation ability, intelligent object avoidance and proactive safety systems, and reasonable non-gigantic size (24 feet or less); in short, everything you indicate as the markers of and necessities for a practical (rather than Gundam-like) mech.

georgeou
georgeou

There is no reason for Giant Humanoid mech weapons. What's valued above all by the military is the simplest and cheapest design that can get the job done. In WWII, the military version of the Tommy gun was vastly simplified for cost reasons so they can produce more of them. Balancing cost, speed, munitions, and armor is the name of the game in warfare. Being fancy gets you points in a manga or comic or anime but it loses you wars in real life. Where I would disagree with you is the superiority of four legs versus two. Yes the four legs are much more stable and reliable, but stability is inversely proportional to maneuverability. Two narrowly placed legs of minimal weight is the best way to generate the most speed and agility. Just look at an ostrich. If you can put a nice gun on top of that, it might make for a very nice light armor attack unit especially if it can jump over obstacles and kill a traditional tank with a well placed shot. However, a traditional tank would likely be able to have more armor and firepower at similar cost levels so you'll likely have both doing different roles. I can definitely see some value in a small exoskeleton suit for close combat support and that's precisely why the military is investigating these. Ultimately, it might be the future super foot soldier. But giant humanoid bot? Probably not as it will be too big of a target and its complexity will go to the wrong place. Future tanks with anti RPG weapons, jump capability and superior fire power will be much more valuable.

bewolfe
bewolfe

To take out mechabots use a bolo (intellegent tank Keith Laumer), or go for overkill get a beserker

jdclyde
jdclyde

Ok, there is a "good guy" that I want to beat/kill, so I am going to MAKE a robot/monster to fight them. Why would I make them the same size? And then there is always the token "goofy" person with the high pitch voice.... grrrrrr. shnarf shnarf.

oddjere
oddjere

Hands are useful because they are adaptable. They can grasp anything. Since one of the basic rules of warfare is being able to react to unforeseen circumstances, hands make incredible sense. Therefore 4 legs and two hands. . .a battle centaur, if you will, seems ideal. That way the robot can lift, grasp, turn over, squish. It also makes sense that a robot's weapon would have an autonomous power/ammo supply. You wouldn't want your battle robot deactivating when it runs out of ammo. You'd want it to be able to pick up rocks, opponent's dropped weaponry, etc.. Hands are simply the most adaptable tools in existence. Therefore it makes sense t equip your robot with them.

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