Iron Giant: Up close with Kuratas, the $1.4 million, 4-ton mech robot

By Jeff Blagdon on December 3, 2012 02:19 pm

“When I was a kid, I thought there were going to be giant robots in the future. But no matter how long I waited, people were only able to make small robots, like Asimo. Eventually, I thought ‘I can’t wait anymore,’ and set out to make one myself.” Kogoro Kurata is the designer and blacksmith behind the gargantuan 4-ton mech standing in front of me. Named after its creator, Kuratas is the product of nearly three years of forging, hammering, and coding. The robot’s expressionless face atop its 13-foot frame towered over the crowd. I pictured its diesel-powered hydraulic arms ripping apart the building’s steel girders.

Steel is Kurata’s specialty, both for his day job as a blacksmith, and for his “hobby.” Inspired by the plastic models from a 1980s anime series called Votoms, he initially got noticed for building a life-sized steel model of one of the program’s Armored Troopers. His next project was a natural extension. “I made Kuratas wondering ‘what would it be like if this thing actually moved?’”

To that end he recruited Wataru Yoshizaki, now a second-year doctoral student, whose V-Sido software powers the robot’s 30 hydraulic actuators. He’s also responsible for its multiple onboard weapons systems (like the smile-activated BB gatling gun), requisite iPhone connectivity, and a robotic hand that’s controlled with what looks like a Nintendo Power Glove. The two came to know one another online, and when Kurata learned how much of the student’s work could be applied to his own project, he extended an invitation: “How would you like to control my robot?” Less than two years later, the pair were showing off their first working prototype.

Read more: Iron Giant: Up close with Kuratas, the $1.4 million, 4-ton mech robot | The Verge.

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