(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)
A Japanese electronics company has built a fully operational robotic exoskeleton, accompanied by its very own Manga.
Powered exoskeletons have been a mainstay of science fiction for a long time, from Warhammer 40K's Power Armour to Aliens' Power Loader to The Matrix Reloaded's Armoured Personal Unit to the now-showing Pacific Rim's Jaegers. In Japan, though, the robotic power suit — called Mecha — is everywhere, popularly known in the west through anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam.
It's only a matter of time before someone makes a fully enclosed robotic suit. Already, agencies such as DARPA and are making exoskeletons for military and space applications. But what about the consumer market?
Well, meet the Powered Jacket MK3 from Sagawa Electronics (named after the fictional corporation from Ghost in the Shell, which raises doubts about its authenticity), a robotic exoskeleton that, using a master-slave system, copies the wearer's movements.
At 2.25 metres high and just 25 kilograms thanks to lightweight carbon fibre, the Powered Jacket straps onto the wearer's arms and legs. When the wearer walks or moves their arms, the suit does the same in real time, powered by 14 servo motors. It can only safely lift up to 2 kilograms, which means it's not really practical (although, according to the promotional video below, it does mean you can cook a fish without having to touch it); it's more, Sagawa Electronics said, for the sake of art.
You can even, Sagawa Electronics said, manipulate the fingers for fine motor tasks, although we're not entirely convinced; the video does not show the mechanism for this.
It even comes with its very own Manga in Japanese and English, available for free online, on Google Play and on iBooks.
Only five of the Powered Jacket MK3 will be produced, coming in at ¥12.5 million (AU$135,800) apiece. You can register your interest on the Sagawa Electronics web page here, and watch the rather terrifying Scarface Sagawa demonstrating the suit in the video below.