Japan continues to beat the rest of the world when it comes to robotics. Railway company JR West has revealed that they are developing massive VR controlled robots called “heavy machinery puppets”. Despite looking like something from Real Steel, these mechanisms are designed to work on railway equipment from higher places.
With the country already having a life-size Gundam, having actual humanoid robots helping out on difficult tasks was a matter of time. Despite being built for work, we nerds can’t help but ogle at their designs. They definitely look cooler than anything that has appeared in Robot Combat League.
Construction with massive VR controlled robots
If anyone was hoping for some Pacific Rim parallels, My Navi News reports that movements are linked between the robot and the operator through the VR headset and controllers. Apparently, the operator will also feel the weight of the metal these robots pick up, giving them more control over the situation.
JR West has assured workers that the process for controlling the VR headset-controlled robots will be simple. However, there's no evidence to suggest it'll be a "pick-up-and-play" affair. It may indeed be easy to learn, but we’ll wait and see how effective it is in practice.
Linking movements between man and machine feels very Pacific Rim. We’re sure some anime fans will point out that Gundam or Guren Lagan also have similar concepts but that’s neither here nor there. As long as we don’t have to relive traumatic moments to operate these things, we’re down for some robot construction work.
When should we expect some robot-on-metal construction?
JR West is already testing out a prototype model this month but is hopeful to have them available by 2024. Considering how early most are with the robotics game, it will be interesting to see if we can see these life-saved robots working railway stations in two years.
Who knows? Maybe we’ll have Real Steel-like tournaments in a couple of years. Then go full Metal Gear Solid by having war machines on the battlefield.
Robots are pretty cool but they can also be a sign of much scarier things to come.