The future is finally here for fans of the popular sci-fi franchise “Gundam!”
Japanese engineers at the Gundam Factory Yokohama announced that they were developing a full-sized, advanced humanoid robot based on the RX-78-2 Gundam, which, for those of you who don’t know, is a giant robot fashioned after a samurai that was originally introduced in the 1979 anime series by Yoshiyuki Tomino.
Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has slowed down production, but the team has released a video showing that development is still in progress. The footage shows the massive mech tacking its first steps at its base just south of Tokyo, in the Port of Yokohama.
In the video, the team can be seen working on the massive machine using a crane. You can tell in the video that the machine is not entirely complete, and is still missing its head, but it is able to lift its legs and move its torso.
Researchers estimate that the robot will be about 25 tons once it is completed. That’s about four times the weight of a large elephant! The machine will also be incredibly agile despite its size. According to Popular Mechanics, the robot will have 24 degrees of freedom, which means that it will be able to walk pretty much anywhere. They even thought about the very small details, and will include fully functional fingers and thumbs.
Developers have been using the open-source Robot Operating System (ROS) and Gazebo simulation software to develop the robot, and the researchers at Yokohama have also released a virtual copy of the robot that accurately simulates how the motors, gears, an sensors of the towering machine actually work.
Before the pandemic changed their plans, Gundam Factory Yokohama was hoping to unveil the robot this summer at Yamashita Pier, but now they have had to reschedule twice due to the virus. First the event was moved to October, and was then pushed back again. Right now it is unclear when the mech will actually be unveiled.
Mobile Suit Gundam was developed by animator Yoshiyuki Tomino and a changing group of Sunrise creators with the collective pseudonym of Hajime Yatate. The series was originally entitled Freedom Fighter Gunboy (or Gunboy) for the robot’s gun.
Early production had a number of references to freedom: the White Base was originally “Freedom’s Fortress”, the Core Fighter was the “Freedom Wing” and the Gunperry was the “Freedom Cruiser”. The Yatate team combined the English word “gun” with the last syllable of the word “freedom” to form the portmanteau Gundom. Tomino then later changed it to Gundam, suggesting a unit wielding a gun powerful enough to hold back enemies like a hydroelectric dam holding back water.
Most Gundams are large, humanoid vehicles controlled from a cockpit by a human pilot. The cockpit is located in the torso, while the head serves as a camera to transmit images back to the cockpit. Most of the series protagonists are Newtypes, genetically advanced humans adapted for space. Newtypes have psychic abilities that enable them to sense each other across space and to utilize special mobile suits.