Japan May Actually Build a Full-Size Walking Gundam Robot — But Probably Not

From anime to reality! Standing at nearly 60 feet tall, this will be the world's largest humanoid robot.

Giant robots are a huge part of Japanese culture, and have been since before World War II. Various manga and anime franchises are based on mecha, including many that gained popularity outside of Japan thanks to the efforts of toy manufacturers. Power Rangers, for example, was produced using footage from Japan’s Super Sentai series, with American actors only being used when the characters weren’t wearing masks or in their mecha. But one of the oldest and most popular franchises in Japan is Gundam. It’s so popular that Japan is even developing plans to construct a full-size Gundamrobot that can actually walk.

We’re approaching this story with a healthy level of skepticism, and you should, too. Giant robots in Japanese fiction can range in size from a bit bigger than a human to as large as entire universes in a couple of cases. Even when you consider it from that perspective, the planned 18-meter-tall (59 foot) Gundam robot would be absolutely massive. That’s roughly as tall as a four story building. It would several times larger than any other walking bipedal robot ever constructed. But, despite our skepticism, this project is getting real work put into it.

That work is being done by Gundam Factory Yokohama in partnership with The University of Tokyo’s JSK Lab. So far they’ve created computer simulations and some 1:30 scale models of the robot and support scaffolding, though those models don’t appear to be functional in anyway. The proposed giant mecha robot would have a steel frame and a “lightweight” outer skin made from carbon resin. It would be driven by electric actuators, which would theoretically be powerful enough to allow it to walk. Those actuators would be controlled by Asratec’s V-Sido operating system. That has been used in real humanoid robots, but not at anything close to this scale. The current schedule apparently has the robot set to be unveiled in October — a seemingly impossible feat, because it almost certainly is.

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