4m-high Korean Iron Man may help with Fukushima clean-up

A Korean robotics company has built a 4m-tall mechanical suit that can be piloted using master-slave controls from a cockpit in its torso. The suit, which weighs 1.5 tonnes, could be used for tasks such as helping with the clean-up of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site.

The suit was designed by Vitaly Bulgarov, who is best known for imagining the futuristic and fantastical robots used in movies such as Terminator, Robocop and Transformers. His real-life creation has now been built by Korean Future Technlogy.

It is capable of amplifying the movements of its operator, with articulated arms and legs that allow it to manipulate objects and walk on a flat surface.  

The proof-of-concept design developed in 2015

One limitation is that it has to be plugged in to the mains to work. In factory applications, this can be done by attaching the suit to an overhead power source. Bulgarov wrote on Facebook yesterday: "The company’s short term goals include developing robotic platforms for industrial areas where having a tethered robot is not an issue.

"Another short-term real world application includes mounting only the top part of the robot on a larger wheeled platform solving the problem of locomotion through an uneven terrain as well as providing enough room for sufficient power source.

"A modified version of that is already in development and is planned to help in restoration of Fukushima disaster area."

A rival to Korea Future Technology’s product has already been produced by Japanese company Suidobashi Heavy Industry. Its Kuratas bot does not have legs, but does have weapons. It can be seen in action in this video.

The use of mechanical suits to amplify the strength of humans has been a research topic in the construction industry. A number of projects are developing commercial exoskeletons around the world.

One example is the Robo-Mate, a project funded by the EU and developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, a technology research organisation.

Top image: Method-1 demonstrates its capabilities (Vitaly Bulgarov)

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