OK, so I know the headline to this post isn’t really the sort a stable and serious scientist, or even a futurist, should be asking. But I was asked this question in Quora, and thought it warranted some thought. So here’s my answer to this mystery that had hounded movie directors for the last century or so!
If Japan actually managed to create the huge robots/exoskeletons so favored in the anime genre, all the generals in all the opposing armies would stand up and clap wildly for them. Because these robots are practically the worst war-machines ever. And believe it or not, I know that because we conducted an actual research into this area, together with Dr.and Dr. Liran Antebi,
But before I tell you about that research, let me say a few words about the woes of huge humanoid robots.
First, there are already some highly sophisticated exoskeleton suits developed by major military contractors likeand . While they’re definitely the coolest thing since sliced bread and frosted donuts, they have one huge disadvantage: they need plenty of energy to work. As long as you can connect them to a powerline, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But once you ask them to go out to the battlefield… well, after one hour at most they’ll stop working, and quite likely trap the human operating them.
Some companies, like Boston Dynamics, have tried to overcome the energy challenge by adding a. Which is great, except for the fact that it’s still pretty cumbersome, and extremely noisy. Not much use for robots that are supposed to accompany marines on stealth missions.
But who wants stealthy robots, anyway? We’re talking about gargantuan robots, right?!
Well, here’s the thing: the larger and heavier the robot is, the more energy you need to operate it. That means you can’t really add much armor to it. And the larger you make it, the more unwieldy it becomes. There’s a reason elephants are so sturdy, with thick legs – that’s the only way they can support their enormous body weight. Huge robots, which are much heavier than elephants, can’t even have legs with joints. When thewas exposed at Maker Faire 2015, it reached a height of 15 feet, weighed around 6 tons… and could only move by crawling on a . So, in short, it was a tank.
And don’t even think about it rising to the air. Seriously. Just don’t.
So now that I’ve thrown cold ice water on the idea of large Japanese humanoid robots, here’s the final rub. A few years ago I was part of a research along with Dr.and Dr. Liran Antebi, that was meant to assess the capabilities that robots will possess in the next twenty years. I’ll cut straight to the chase: the experts we interviewed and surveyed believed that in twenty years or less we’ll have –
One of the only categories about which the experts were skeptical was that of “transforming platforms” – i.e. robots that can change shape to adapt themselves to different tasks. There is just no need for these highly versatile (and expensive, inefficient and vulnerable) robots when you can send ten other highly-specialized robots to perform each task at a turn. Large humanoid robots are the same. There’s just no need for them in warfare.
So, to sum things up: if Japan were to construct anime-style Gundam-like robots and send them to war, I really hope they prepare them for having sex because they would be screwed over pretty horribly.