Amazon’s founder just debuted a real-life mech to crush his enemies (and rocks)
Amazon founder and Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos just introduced a real-life mech that stands 13 feet tall and weighs 1.5 tons. It is listed as the “world’s first manned bipedal robot,” and it’s designed to work in hazardous conditions where humans can’t do physically demanding work unprotected, like on the surface of Mars or the lair of a xenomorph queen.
Bezos debuted his ungodly mechanical beast at the annual, invitation-only Machine-Learning, Automation, and Space Exploration (MARS2017) conference, hosted by Amazon. The mech has a cockpit for a pilot/driver, which Bezos used to introduce the mech to the crowd. Using a series of controls, the mech can move like a human – a really powerful, metal human capable of lifting thousands of pounds.
He then began laughing maniacally and went on a rampage. No, not really, but he could have.
The mech was designed and built by the Korean tech firm Hankook Mirae Technology, which Bezos recently acquired. The mech costs around $8.3 million at the moment, and it will need a fair amount more before it can be considered ready for mass production. It currently can’t walk more than a few meters, and the power source remains an issue. Still, compared to the costs of heavy construction equipment (or a tank), a final production cost of, say, $15 million would be comparatively cheap.
With Bezos also looking at space exploration with his Blue Origins company, it seems like the mech – known as Method 2 – would be a useful tool on the moon or on Mars. It would need to be modified for a hostile environment without oxygen it will need to be modified, but it’s very possible. A vehicle like this could have an immediate impact on colonizing and exploring other planets, moons, and asteroids.
Of course, the Method 2 also has plenty of military applications – it even looks like it would be ready for battle, and that’s not an accident. The look of Method 2 was designed by Vitaly Bulgarov, a robotics expert who has worked with Hollywood to help create the look of the terminator, Transformers, Robocop, and more.
Another possibility mentioned at MARS2017 is to use Method 2 to help with the Fukushima nuclear disaster cleanup in Japan. That sounds like an interesting possibility, but simply putting a person inside a mech wouldn’t protect them from the radiation. Plus, the heat near the reactor is so intense that it can melt the wiring of electronics, even those protected inside metal frames. So it may be possible, but it would need heavy modification and require a whole lot of testing before risking someone’s life. In other disaster areas like a mine or possibly even underwater, the Method 2 might be more easily adapted.
Mechs like this are still at least a few years away from practical consideration, but they are on the way. One thing is for sure – if Bezos’ closest rival, Elon Musk, happens to be out walking down the street and he suddenly sees a giant mech coming toward him, he should probably run.