Japan startup unveils 15-foot robot suit for space exploration

‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ robot costs $3 million and could also be used for disaster relief

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 06 October 2023 00:18 BST
This Robot Vehicle Will Be Hitting the Market

Engineers in Japan have created a 3.5-ton robot suit that resembles a character from a hugely popular animation series, which they hope to use for space exploration and in emergency situations.

Tokyo-based start-up Tsubame Industries developed the 4.5-metre-tall (14.8-feet), four-wheeled Archax robot that looks like “Mobile Suit Gundam” from the 1970s Japanese show of the same name.

Named after the avian dinosaur archaeopteryx, the $3 million (£2.5m) robot has cockpit monitors that receive images from cameras hooked up to the exterior so that the pilot can manoeuvre the arms and hands with joysticks from inside its torso.

The robot, which will be unveiled at the Japan Mobility Show later this month, has two modes: the upright ‘robot mode’ and a ‘vehicle mode’ in which it can travel up to 10 km (6 miles) per hour.

“Japan is very good at animation, games, robots and automobiles so I thought it would be great if I could create a product that compressed all these elements into one,” said Ryo Yoshida, the 25-year-old chief executive of Tsubame Industries.

“I wanted to create something that says, ‘This is Japan’.”

Mr Yoshida plans to build and sell five of the machines for the well-heeled robot fan, but hopes the robot could one day be used for disaster relief or in the space industry.

Mr Yoshida became interested in manufacturing at an early age, learning how to weld at his grandfather’s ironworks and then going on to found a company that produces myoelectric prosthetic hands. He said he is eager to keep Japan’s competitive edge in manufacturing alive.

“I hope to learn from previous generations and carry on the tradition,” he said.

Tsubame Industries is one of several startups working on robotic exoskeletons, with applications ranging from assisting delivery workers with heavy loads, to military “super soldier” suits.

The US military has already unveiled several exoskeleton prototypes, with one such device claiming to offer Marines the strength and ability of up to 10 troops.

“The ultimate goal is to provide troops with an edge by boosting their capabilities and dramatically improving safety and productivity in a variety of logistics applications,” the company behind it, Sarcos Robotics, said in 2020.

Additional reporting from agencies.

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