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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...

238 comments
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.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

... is more reasoned and logical, not as emotionally charged as it was when the discussion was first posted. As far as I'm concerned, we should keep it going a while longer.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

And that's part of the problem with much of this discussion, people were saying 'impractical', 'inefficient' and 'impossible' without taking into account that new technologies are being created on a daily basis that could make them practical, efficient and eminently possible as soon as this century. The fact that our military is already experimenting with an exoskeleton device to make our soldiers capable of carrying twice to three times their normal load on foot means that such concepts are not only conceivable, but already in the embryonic stage.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...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." One of the key words in the original article is 'giant', as in 'giant mecha robots'. As portrayed in most popular animation, all of these are too much larger than human beings to be able to use existing tools. If we have to redesign the seats and machinery to fit giant robots, there go the cost savings. As to legs over treads, the disadvantages of legs is they concentrate the weight over a smaller area; treads spread it out over a larger 'footprint'. This is important if the surface is soft or offers poor traction.

svpaladin
svpaladin

You know, both sides have proven both the pros and cons of both "conventional" military assets and the "Giant Robot" military asset. However, nobody has referenced THE definitive (to me at least :P) type of Giant Robot anime that makes this whole argument moot, if only the technology to make it work would exist. The anime, in it's best-noted "Americanized" form: Robotech. The anime sub-genre: Transformable Giant Robots... And we're not talking sentient autonomous transforming robots here, aka the Transformers, but piloted by human units with the ability to operate in multiple configurations. Typically combining a high-speed and agile vehicular form with all the benefits, stability, etc. of the traditional vehicle, with the option of going "battloid", which was the humanoid "giant robot" form for either slow-speed infantry-like (city clearing, close combat) or dexterous (hand to hand, limited exploration) duties. Many of these vehicles also espoused a "mid-transformed" form, typically into a "jet" with arms, legs wings and nosecone, providing both aerial stability, limited speed, high agility, VTOL (the legs contained the jet engines and thrusters), and the convenience of independently targeting arms and hands for dexterous work. While the jet form would be the most popular, high speed, long range, etc., the tank would probably be the one unit that I would expect to have the first transforming units made for, being tanks are already used to dealing with the mass required to support the armor, extra mechanics, structures, etc. required to make a transforming vehicle... One of those (the Alpha preferably) would be the unit I would love to build a few wings/platoons of for my military... :P

JamesRL
JamesRL

Even if you solve the ground pressure challenges, you still have other issues. Armies often need to get tanks to where they want to go quickly as things develop. But driving a tank thousands of miles wears them out. So they put them on rail cars and on big cargo planes. Bigger tanks would tend to be wider, and wouldn't fit on a C5 Galaxy or railway car(think of trains passing each other, tunnels). And economically there is a quantity versus quality issue. In WWII the Americans were developing a bigger Tank on the same scale as a tiger, but chose to delay it in favour of producing better versions of their existing medium Shermans. The Russians and Germans continued to put out medium tanks and assault guns(cheaper turretless tank killers )even when they had monster tanks, because they needed numbers. Big tanks are big targets and sometimes you are better off with more tanks, not better ones. James

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"I understand the Japanese cultural motivation for putting giant metal samurai ... in the sky,..." You do? Would you mind cluing the rest of us in? What's with the obsession with the humanoid form?

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Tony Stark, an executive, used to carry his armor in a briefcase. It's been 20 years since I read comics, so they (Marvel) may have made some changes since then. Regardless, a powered suit of armor doth not a robot make. I too expect to be disappointed. My wife refused to attend comic-based movies with me because I rant for a week about the continuity violations between print and screen. Don't even get me started on someone of Hugh Jackman's height playing Wolverine, a character always drawn at least eight inches shorter than the rest of the X-Men.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

[i]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...)[/i] To borrow the phrase, ballocks! The particles involved in an electromagnetic pulse have no mass. How can they interfere with a nuclear reaction? If an EMP [u]is[/u] capable of what you say in this paragraph, why is the sun still shining? [i]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.[/i] There are so many errors in this single paragraph, I don't know where to start. On second thought, yes I do: http://www.fas.org/man/crs/RL32544.pdf. This 14-page report from the Congressional Research Service discusses how an EMP is created and what its effects might be. EMP is not capable of the creating the physical effects and molecular disruption you describe in your post. [u]At most[/u], it will disrupt/destroy the operating capability of insufficiently shielded electronic equipment by inducing a current in a manner like (but much, much greater than) a static discharge. This will most likely happen with no apparent outward indications except the flash of the nuclear blast that created the pulse. Edit. Reiterating, redundantly, over-and-over: An EMP will have no physical effects other than those induced in susceptible or poorly shielded electronic equipment.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I'm truly ashamed of myself for forgetting about EMP. When I was in the Army, we used to practice computing artillery ballistic data manually, just in case EMP took out our computers. I should have remembered to include it in the discussion days ago. Thanks.

Vulpinemac
Vulpinemac

After reading all of the above, I learned... absolutely nothing I didn't already know. What our esteemed colleague is saying is that a great enough burst of electromagnetic energy could shut everything down. I guess I can't argue with that. However, what qualifies as a "great enough burst?" Let's see. According to an episode of [u]FutureWeapons[/u] on the Discovery Channel ( http://dsc.discovery.com/search/results.html? query=EMP&go.x=0&go.y=0 ) an Electromagnetic pulse of the strength created by a nuclear bomb [i]can[/i]kill any electronics actually running. However, in that demonstration, while a car was disabled, the electric windows operated normally after the event and the driver was completely unharmed. A radio-controlled electric helicopter was downed instantly; so yes, an EMP can and will harm operating electronics. But People? Well, it would take a lot more than a nuke-sized EMP pulse to disrupt the biological systems for long. Of course, the test alluded to above was on civilian equipment and not military hardened systems. It is a fairly widely-known fact that systems can be protected from an EMP pulse In fact, anything that can block radio waves can probably block a pulse created by today's technology. It is also known that the military is just as aware of the EMP hazard as our colleague and has taken steps to minimize its effects. If this can be done today, how hard would it be to protect similar systems in the future? Quite logically, if static electricity can be grounded by mere contact with the earth then a 20-100 ton mecha should be able to ground out most of the effects of an EMP blast. Add to this other protective technologies and EMP becomes a non-issue. Which takes me back to my original question: how much energy would be required to down something like a Battlemech? Honestly, the concussive effects of that same nuclear bomb would destroy the mech and everything around it before the EMP had a chance to affect it. Any military equipment outside of the blast radius of that bomb would probably be unharmed.

Dunkleosteus
Dunkleosteus

allows continuous stable support, especially if two sets of tripods alternate in a sort of walk

santeewelding
santeewelding

Opinion masquerading as a giant mecha robot -- not that you can't find the same in other threads here, by others.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

point on not being useful right at the start and then concentrated on the meat of the rest of the discussion - why humanoid, and the realities of life in the trenches civil and military. Yes treads spread the weight, as so do many legs. but legs will win the day as way too many treaded vehicles are not as functional in rough terrain as wheeled vehicles and this transfers to legged robots too. One treaded robot used by emergency services is unable to go over anything but smooth or only slightly rough terrain due to the inability of the tread to handle a decent slope or a short up and down situation. One combat robot I've seen being developed had three versions to start with, a tread on each side, two treads on each side, and six wheels on each side; guess which could handle the roughest terrain. Yep, the wheeled on as it was better suited to smoothly go over minor rough spots as each wheel adjusted to the terrains as against having to adjust the length of the tread. Watch some video of treaded robots or vehicles going over obstructions and you'll quickly see the problems s they have to hight to the mid point then flop down, while a wheeled or legged version can sort of flow over as each wheel or leg handles it separately. In the long run I expect the military will use both and deploy which ever's best for the environment being faced.

jgwinner
jgwinner

All that's true, but even more so in spades compared to giant Mecha's. What's the ground pressure of one of THOSE? The wear out argument is about the only one that would apply to a Mecha, meaning the treads on a tank may wear faster than say a bunch of actuators on a mecha. Quantity vs Quality only works to a point - when the Tiger first came out, the sherman couldn't kill it, unless the sherman was VERY close. The numbers vs quality argument was skewed because America had a lot of factories that weren't being bombed, not because a Sherman was easier to make relative to a Tiger. Tanks ARE getting larger though - look at the size and main gun caliber on the M-1 compared to the Sherman. == John ==

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

In terms of humanoid robots, or current Japanese robotics comes from chivilry. The goal for study currently is to build an android; replicate a human form and functions. The use of advanced robotic vision or forms outside of the human shape would be considering cheating and lessening the challenge of replicating the form. There are probably deeper reasons. The reason for it being a giant Samurai rather than any old humanoid should be obvious. I don't have the cultural understanding to offer any guesses deeper than that though. There may also be some invluences from the truly messed up rating system. (ie. naughty bits are ok to show in cartoon if attached to a monster but intercorse between two humanoids is pornographic) In contrast, the western aproach to robotics is not to reproduce the human form and function. Using things like advanced robotic vision or legs that fold into treds does not lessen the challenge.

jdclyde
jdclyde

How about Cyclopes and Xavier being killed by Dark Phoenix? Everyone knows Phoenix killed herself on the moon! And Tony always had the breast plate on, because it was keeping his heart pumping. It was the helmet/arms/legs he carried. I had a hard time with Spiderman 3. After all the years of sitcoms and such, there was no way I could/would believe that Thomas Haden Church was a tough guy. Let alone a tough guy that NOVA fought. I luckily still have my trunk of comics, although thanks to an older brother, the condition isn't so hot.

seanferd
seanferd

A good idea. We can build one in the I-X Center.

seanferd
seanferd

Giant mecha robot: Fully Autonomously Controlled Tactical weapon.

jgwinner
jgwinner

>>Yes treads spread the weight, as so do many legs. but legs will win the day as way too many treaded vehicles are not as functional in rough terrain as wheeled vehicles and this transfers to legged robots too.

jdclyde
jdclyde

If you didn't know it before, you sure do now. And it is in Xman3, not 1 or 2. I have teen boys, so we watch all of those. My biggest regret? About 13 years ago when they did the "Death of Superman", they came out with a collectors pack that had the death, and the many stories of how the "Man of Steel" came back. It was a sealed pack, so I bought one for each of my boys and put it away. dumbass me forgot to buy a third set that I could OPEN, so I would know what friggen happened! :(

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"How about Cyclopes and Xavier being killed by Dark Phoenix?" You assume I saw it. If that was the first movie, I was long gone before it happened. If it was the second, I didn't waste my money. You're right about Tony's breast plate; I'd forgotton. I haven't seen Spidey 2 or 3 yet. When I got engaged in '83 I sold off my collection. It made the down payment on our first house, and that was selling it in bulk and not individually evaluated. I should have kept one of the GS X-Men 1's, one of the #137's, and the two "Days of Future Past" ("This Issue: Everybody Dies!"). In less than a year Claremont scripted three books whose impact on the Marvel mythology is still being felt today. "Regrets, I've had a few..."