In the back of his southern Alaska garden, Carlos Owens is building an 18-foot-tall steel mecha, an exoskeleton that can transform its wearer’s motions into eight-foot strides and the devastating sweep of a steel fist.
When completed, the idea is for the pilot to be able to strap himself into a padded compartment, and then control the mecha with the motions of his own body. When the pilot walks, the mecha walks, when he raises an arm and opens a hand, the mecha does the same.
As he can’t afford top-of-the line equipment, he’s using a hydraulic system to transfer the motion of his limbs to the larger structure, and a gas engine mounted on the back to generate the power needed. In all, the system can exert about 3,500 pounds per square inch, or more than enough to set the ton and a half creation in motion.
Early this year, a University of California, Berkeley, team unveiled BLEEX (Berkeley Lower Extremity Exoskeleton, see picture) system which allows users to merrily carry massive loads, or could help people with atrophied or poor muscles to walk normally.
In the short term, Owens is more interested in the entertainment value of a monster crushing cars, or fighting others like it.
He nevertheless foresees a day when tools like his might be used on the battlefield instead of tanks, or dropped into the middle of a raging forest fire to help firefighters.