2 years ago
If the robot above looks like something out of a big-budget action film, that’s because it sort of is. Towering 13 feet tall, “Method-2” is a mechanized suit designed by Vitaly Bulgarov, who has created robots featured in Hollywood films. The giant South Korean–built manned robot that walks like a human but makes the ground underneath it shake has taken its first baby steps in a room on the outskirts of Seoul.
Bearing a striking resemblance to the military robots from the movie Avatar, Method-2 was designed to assist workers in a factory setting, or similar risky environments. The robotic suit is currently being developed with a company in South Korea called Hankook Mirae Technology.
Its creators at the Korean robotics company are calling it a world’s first, and about 30 engineers are hard at work on it, conducting initial tests. “Our robot is the world’s first manned bipedal robot and is built to work in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go [unprotected],” said company chairman Yang Jin-Ho.
A pilot sitting inside the robot’s torso makes limb movements which are then mimicked by Method-2, whose metal arms each weigh 286 pounds. The robot, more than twice the size of a tall man, is so heavy that it shakes the ground when it takes a step with a loud whirring of motors.
Yang, who dreamed as a child of building his own robot, said he has invested $200 million in the project since 2014 to “bring to life what only seemed possible in movies and cartoons.” Building the giant robot was a challenge for the engineers—most of them in their mid and late 30s—as its unprecedented scale meant they had nothing to refer to, said one who declined to be named.
So far, it remains unclear how the robot will be used. Method-2 is seen more as a test-case for various technologies that will allow the creators to build any type and size of robot in the future.
While its enormous size has grabbed media attention, the creators of Method-2 say the project’s core achievement is the technology they developed and enhanced along the way. “Everything we have been learning so far on this robot can be applied to solve real-world problems,” said designer Vitaly Bulgarov on his Facebook page. He has previously worked on film series such as Transformers, Robocop, and Terminator.
Yang said they have already received inquiries from industries ranging from manufacturing and construction to entertainment. There have even been questions about its possible deployment along the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone with North Korea. A Facebook post by Bulgarov says Hankook Mirae Technology is looking to use Method-2 in assisting with the relief efforts after the 2010 meltdown at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.
But the robot, tethered by a power cable and still a bit wobbly on its feet, is far from finished. More work is needed on its balance and power systems, according to its creators.
“The robot is one year old so it is taking baby steps,” Yang said. “Just like humans, it will be able to move more freely in the next couple of years.”
Yang said the robot will be ready for sale by the end of 2017 at a price of around $8.3 million.
—Relaxnews with additional reporting by the RealClearLife staff