The Ultimate Art Car: Kuratas

We’re about to be 12 Burns into the 21st Century, and I think it’s safe to say that the robot age is well and truly upon us. First we had the Hand of Man. Then we have all kinds of drone activity being planned for this year. Now, anyone with a spare $1.35 million can make a big splash at Burning Man with the ultimate art car: the 13-foot high robot suit, Kuratas. It’s so cool it even has its own theme song:

It needs a paint job and some EL wire. At 4.5 tonnes, it should be pretty wind resistant. And it moves at Playa speed already. Well, you can crank it all the way to 6 MPH – but with this baby, is any cop going to try to ticket you for being 1 MPH over the limit? I don’t think so…

A Japanese electronics company has revealed a $1.2 million gun-wielding robot that can be controlled from your smartphone.

The KR01 Kuratas Battle Mech, or Kuratas for short, was unveiled by Suidobashi Heavy Industry in Tokyo yesterday at the Wonder Festival.

The diesel-powered machine stands four metres high and weighs a humble 4.5 tonnes, moving around on four wheels at a top speed of 10 km/h.

Unveiled ... the $1.2 million, 4.5 tonne KR01 Kuratas Battle Mech.

It sports a Gatling gun capable of firing 100 rounds a second (ball bearings, not bullets), which is activated via facial tracking technology when the pilot smiles. Suidobashi call this “the smile shot” – trigger happy indeed. 

Perhaps the most exciting feature of this behemoth is the fact that the “pilot” can control it from the safety of their smartphone. An app, known as the MasterSlave control system, will allow smartphones and tablets full control of the device when connected to a 3G network.  

The beast can also be controlled from inside the cockpit, where augmented reality-style controls are overlaid on a display of the outside world. Motion sensor technology allows the pilot to move the torso, arms and hands via 30 hydraulic joints. Kuratas can also grab and pick up things with its claw-like fingers.

The exterior of the Kuratas, which features “shot-proof” armour, is reminiscent of Japanese anime that features giant robots or “mecha”, such as Gundam and video games such as MechWarrior. Comparisons were also quick to emerge between it and the Mitsubishi MK-6 Amplified Mobility Platform (aka AMP suit) in James Cameron’s epic Avatar, not to mention Robocop.

Kuratas can play nice as well as naughty, and can be programmed to perform such duties as firefighting and cleaning. It comes in 16 different colours, and will be made to order, including a $90 optional cup holder in the cockpit.

Suidobashi Heavy Industry have been working on the robot since 2010, and created a similar prototype earlier this year that was controlled partially with Microsoft’s Kinect sensor. 

Read more:

The artist, Kogoro Kurata, working away in a secret mountain lair in anime-mad Japan, has previously produced a 13-ft mech suit and a Steampunk Laptop. It’s a fully functional laptop, with mechanical keys, a wooden space bar, and a stylish Morse key over the trackball. It’s even got USB, Ethernet, and all the modern trimmings.

He sounds like a bad ass to me, let’s hope he’s a Burner. Robotics expert Wataru Yoshizaki also worked on the piece.

Here’s some more coverage from CNET:

Kuratas is a four-wheeled, 30-joint exoskeleton that can be piloted from its cockpit or remotely with a 3G touch-screen phone. It was demoed at the Wonder Festival, where legions of robot fans gathered.

Kuratas can move its massive torso, arms, and hands, and has a few “weapons” like a “LOHAS launcher,” but it actually shoots BB pellets and fireworks. It can also grab things (like humans) with its claw-like fingers.

After all, Kuratas is billed as an “art project” but it “makes your dream of becoming a robot pilot come true,” as a promo video tells us.

The man behind it is metalworking wizard Kogoro Kurata, who is known for creating a full-scale cast-iron model of a Scopedog mecha from the 1980s series “Votoms.”

Kurata has also done a variety of art and commercial design work in recent years in and around Tokyo. He assembled the robot in a remote garage in the mountains.

Kuratas is a case of life imitating art. It evokes the realism of Votoms and the Gundam animation franchise that debuted in 1979.

Inside the cockpit, AR-style info is overlaid over the video feed. Game-style controls rotate the torso and move the arms. The exterior has “shot-proof armor” and is painted with military-style insignias.

Suidobashi Heavy Industry’s logo, meanwhile, recalls those of Japanese weapons and shipbuilding conglomerates like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

It’s unfortunate that fireworks are illegal in Nevada and that includes Burning Man, because those  smile-activated cannons look like they could be a whole lot of fun.

Maybe James Cameron IS John Connor? He warned us of this almost 30 years ago: Terminator came out in 1984. It seems the Japanese are already considerably ahead of the US in this type of technology. Maybe some enterprising Burners can make a Kuratas in their garage, and even the score.

No word yet on if the Iron Crow of Kuratas will have more power than the Hand of Man

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