Giant six-legged robot built by UK animatronics enthusiast

Written by Edward Chester

April 22, 2013 | 17:25

Tags: #giant #robot

Companies: #bit-tech

An enormous, six-legged ride-in hydraulic robot has been unveiled by its British designer, who spent four years building it just for fun.

Designed and built by Matt Denton, an animatronics expert from Hampshire, UK, the 'Mantis' is described as "the biggest, all-terrain operational hexapod robot in the world."

It can propel itself and its single human passenger-cum-pilot at up to 1.5km/h. Controlled via joysticks inside its cockpit, it can also tilt and turn its 'body' in a number of different ways, as well as spin round on the spot.

The robot weighs a colossal 1,900 kg (4,188 pounds), stands 2.8 meters (9.18 ft) tall, and is powered by a Perkins 2.2 litre turbo diesel engine, which is used to drive its six hydraulic legs.

It also features a variety of sensors - such as force transducers, angle sensors, and an inclinometer - that help it walk. Meanwhile a Linux PC running HexEngine – software designed to control hexapods – does the heavy processing required to keep all 18 hydraulic actuators in its legs working in sync.

Mr Denton's "very expensive toy" has cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds to build and took many times longer than expected to complete.

"After 18 months we tried the model out. We had to completely strip out and rebuild the legs. They were too heavy and complicated." he said.

"I'm a software and electronics engineer so this was out of my area - I had to learn fast."

As well as costing a considerable sum to build, it is also rather thirsty, emptying its 20-litre tank of diesel travelling just 5km.

"It's not about miles to the gallon, it's about gallons to the mile," Denton said.

"It wasn't built to be efficient and fast. It was built to look cool and insect-like and fun."

"But legs are very inefficient - the wheel was invented for a reason," he added.

Denton, whose company, MicroMagic, produces animatronics for the film and television industries has built hexapods before but never on a human scale. He says a mining company and a marine research organisation have shown interest in his design and he hopes it might be used at science fairs.

Recently an American team secured Kickstarter funding to build a human-sized hexapod, though it appears they were beaten to the punch somewhat by Mr Denton. Their project, Stompy, can be found here.

See Mantis in action

We've seen plenty of these sort of mechanoid projects over the years but this is certainly one of the more impressive. Here's hoping he makes a version 2.0
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