While writing The Anomalies, my research inevitably leads me astray. After all, the story focuses on two societies who are wildly different from ours. The Noeds use the power of their minds while the Trans harness technology to a degree we can only dream of; for now, anyway.
I was researching the Trans when I got sidetracked. I ran across an article about a real-life mech. For those of you who are not familiar, the urban dictionary defines a mech as;
Aside from the research itself, another reason mechs caught my eye is because I used to play a computer simulator called Mechwarrior. The game was a total blast and fits the definition perfectly. You strap into a virtual mech and wreak havoc upon other mechs--and buildings, and people, and...you get the idea. If you're interested, the game is actually still going strong. You can check it out here.
And let's not forget the numerous movies that portray these deadly mechanical puppets—the Avatar’s Mitsubishi MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform or "AMP" suit and Pacific Rim’s Jaegers to name a few.
But I'm sure you can already see my concern when I came across a bona fide mech on WIRED. I mean look at this beast!
Wouldn't you be concerned? Let me introduce you to Method-2, a Korean megabot that, for all appearances sake, could be deadly. That said, as you can see from these pictures, this mech is weaponless unless you count those massive hands.
Why is this considered a mech even though it doesn’t have weapons? Because in my opinion, the definition provided by urban dictionary fell short in a critical area; directly translating the pilot’s movements. The definition states, “…a pilot inside of a mech…” but according to that statement, said pilot could be using a mouse and keyboard for all we know. However, as Kai Schächtele of WIRED, quotes, for the Method-2,
That is the aspect of these mechs that I feel is most important and makes them unique. Imagine every move you make amplified a hundredfold or more!
For those of you who are disappointed by the lack of weaponry, don't be. While Method-2’s creators hope to market the mech for use in hazardous environments such as nuclear disasters, one could argue there's nothing more hazardous than the battlefield. That is, in fact, a potential use as well, specifically the most dangerous border in existence; the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.
If this surprises you, then keep in mind, back in 2010, South Korea deployed armed robots along the DMZ as a trial run. While these robots may not fit the traditional view of a deadly weaponized bionic-like humanoid, Aaron Saenz of SingularityHub describes it as still being quite effective;
Tell me that's not impressive.
In this video to the left, VICE News explored the Method-2, and you can see how it operates, and listen to the discussion about applications for the DMZ.
After exploring the Method-2, I couldn't help searching for other mech-like machines and what I ran across was astounding. Not only did I find more mechs, but I found bona fide fighting mechs, complete with weapons—cannons, chainsaws, battering rams—you name it.
Below, is the Eagle Prime developed by MegaBots
And this is KURATAS developed by Suidobashi Heavy Industries.
Not only are these mechs built for battle, but they did, in fact, have a duel! MegaBots is a company that is dedicated to these types of battles and hosted a fight between Eagle Prime and KURATAS. According to their about page:
Now, there's plenty of hype on the Internet about the fight being faked, staged, etc. but I’m not here to dwell on that; there are just way too many cool things about this to get distracted. Look at how many staged events occur today for the sake of entertainment. For example, in many ways, wrestling is nothing more than an intricately choreographed play, but that doesn't take away from a wrestler's skill to perform it. By the same token, the battle between Eagle Prime and KURATAS may have been a carefully designed dance of the titans, however, does that diminish the sheer desire and drive to create them? Or the robotic and mechanical engineering expertise needed to pull it off? And the funding…I can't even imagine.
But if you're interested in watching the battle, just check it out below; courtesy of MegaBots.
You might be wondering where all this is going. As I mentioned on my homepage, this blog helps me gather my thoughts and gain ideas. But I also think this technology poses some intriguing and thought-provoking questions. After all, that's what speculative fiction is all about. These mechs may not be an AMP Suit or a Jaeger, but someday they could. But is that the best approach to security and warfare?
One alternative is AI controlled autonomous robots. But there are obvious concerns about that, one being that in its attempt to make the most logical decision according to its programming, AI could make choices humans would not. Remember the movie I, Robot starring Will Smith? Wikipedia says,
Let’s face it, that’s a real possibility.
Another option could be the growing popularity of exoskeleton suits—man and machine; still cooperating but on a lesser scale, such as the suits here worn by Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) in the film Edge of Tomorrow. These ExoSuits are certainly impressive, but as I mentioned, it’s on a smaller scale; much smaller. The massive weaponry of mechs and the safety afforded to the pilots are obviously missing.
Still, is it really practical in terms of cost, materials, and a number of other factors that are too many to mention to build these monstrosities? I don’t have the answer. But I do know there’s a definite attraction to them when it comes to science fiction (and real life if you ask MegaBots!) And if you look back in history, you’ll find that a lot of modern amenities, tools, and just cool tech was once science fiction. Realistically, autonomous robots and exoskeletons are more realistic and feasible, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never see full scale, fully functional giant mechs someday; I hope.