Robotics

Giant Robotic Mech Suit Is Said to Help Clean Up Fukushima

Method-1 is a towering manned robot designed by a computer graphics expert and piloted by a human — but questions have been raised about its legitimacy.

<p><a href="https://vitalybulgarov.com/" target="_blank">Vitaly Bulgarov</a> via Facebook</p>

"Hey guys!" wroteVitaly Bulgarov, a concept designer based in California, on his Facebook page a few days ago. "I'm excited to share some updates and work-in-progress motion tests for the 4 m tall, 1.5 ton heavy manned robot I have been working on with a Seoul-based robotics company, Korea Future Technology."

Bulgarov is well known in video game and film circles for his skill designing futuristic robots for games like World Of Warcraft and Diablo 3 and movies including Robocop (2014), Transformers 4 and others. But this was something different. Bulgarov, used to rendering heroes and villains using 3-D computer modeling software, was invited by a Korean robotics company to build something real.

That was back in 2014 and now, nearly two years later, Bulgarov is showing off the results: Method-1, a 13-ft robotic suit that looks like something out of Pacific Rim. Piloted by a human, who sits inside a glass-enclosed cockpit, the machine is capable of walking across the floor, in forward or reverse, each step a thundering reminder of its weight.

"It shakes the ground," Bulgarov says in the video.

It's articulated ankles give it flexibility and stability. Inside the cockpit, the pilot's arms are strapped into contraptions that allow him to control the motion of the robot's arms. If he outstretches his arms, the robot does. If he curls them in, the robot does too.

For indoor applications, the power comes from an overhead tether. In the video, Method-1 appears has been hooked to a moving girder to prevent it from toppling over. For outdoor applications, where terrain might be uneven, the robot's torso could be mounted to a wheeled platform containing a power source, Bulgarov explained.

"A modified version of that is already in development and is planned to help in restoration of Fukushima disaster area," Bulgarov wrote on his Facebook page.

If that's the case, we hope Method-1 has some serious radiation protection. Back in March, two robots built by Toshiba, designed to remove spent fuel-rod assemblies from the reactor 4 at Fukushima, died from the radiation. Radiation levels at reactor 3 are even higher.

But is the robotic mech suit even real? In piece published on Live Science, Stephanie Pappas questions whether the giant mech suit is a hoax. She writes that the company, Korea Future Technology, has no online presence and that the domain name cited by Bulgarov, hankookmirae.com (meaning "South Korea Future"), was registered in February to Lim Hyun Kuk (named in the Instagram photograph below), who according to Bulgarov is the company's CEO. But that website isn't active.

Pappas writes, "Furthermore, the only source for the videos or any information about them is the Facebook and Instagram pages of a designer whose website mentions a conceptual art project about a 'fictional robotics corporation that develops its products in a not-so-distant future.'"

Bulgarov told Live Science that the company's website would be live soon.

"Stay tuned for more updates!" Bulgarov wrote on his Facebook page.

Either way, he's generating quite a buzz.

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