5 Real-World Mechs Straight out of Science Fiction

Mechs are damn near everywhere in fiction. From space-horror to steampunk -- hell, even anime has a few -- it seems there's no problem a good, giant robot suit can't solve. And yet, in reality, we all commute to work in dumb ol' cars, fight our wars with boring guns and make bland love with our decidedly non-mechanical genitals. Where are our mechs, science? Where are our goddamn mechs?!

Oh wait, here they are. Sorry about that, Science.

GE Walking Truck

I've got something shocking to tell you (you might want to sit down): The Japanese did not invent the concept of the battle-mech. In fiction, that honor falls to the tri-pods from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. In reality, it falls to the United States Army. Yes, America was manufacturing real-life steel walkers before Japan had even sketched their first dual-function cock/cockpit.

That worrying elephantine metal bastard up there is called the Walking Truck, and because that name just isn't doing it in the Terror Department, it was also called the Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine. Since "the Walking Truck" sounds like a cameo character in Thomas the Tank Engine -- and the "Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine" stirs up mental images of cold steel feet stomping their way methodically through playgrounds and orphanages everywhere -- we'll go with the latter. It's far more accurate.

The CAM was a literal war-mech, built by General Electric back in 1966. Its purpose was to move cargo and weapons through rough terrain during battles. It actually involves no electricity; the whole thing is operated via manual control of hydraulic servos. The final production models were to have 12-foot-tall legs and a top hiking speed of 35 miles an hour, and, as you can see at about 39 seconds in, it could kick a fucking jeep across the room.

Admittedly it does so rather hesitantly and awkwardly - but that's more a matter of self-confidence than ability.

Doesn't this kind of piss you off? We had functional fun-size AT-ATs back in the mid-60s!

Sure, doubts were raised about its inherent balance and mobility -- because there's a kind of pulley system following the thing around through parts of the video -- but look closely: The rope is slack most of the time. It seems to be serving more as a precaution than a support. These scientists are still human beings, after all. While they might know, objectively, that this shambling steel rhino skeleton is entirely rider-operated, and therefore physically unable to snap and rampage through the complex in a berserk murder spree -- they're still going to put a leash on it, just in case. Besides, there are plenty of images of the thing moving freely, and even a few of the later prototypes, which had stabilizing arms so it could never fall over in such a way that you could not right it again. Long story short: It worked, and with a little more development, it could have worked really well.

But the CAM was eventually discontinued because, although there wasn't much physical strain involved, most of the operators mentally burnt out after about 15 minutes from the unfamiliar stress of manipulating a foreign body via joysticks.

God ... dammit, the past! We own Xboxes now. We do this shit for fun! If you sons-of-bitching-previous-generations had just stuck with this and ironed out the kinks, we could all be loping to the 7-Eleven for a six-pack and a Slim Jim in our solid-steel battlemechs that kick through walls, cruise at the city-speed of a car and use no fucking fuel.

Gundam Statue

This Gundam "statue" was formerly located in Odaiba Park, just outside Tokyo. It was built by Bandai to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Gundam series. Statue is in quotation marks in that first sentence, because the thing is far from inert: It moves its head, lights up, fires lasers (tragically non-lethal at the moment) and even emits a smoke-screen.

If it does all that, can you really call it a statue? Some days, I barely roll down the stairs to "work" on the Internet, and yet I'm legally considered an autonomous being. "Statue" is downright insulting. Let's be politically correct and just call it a "physically challenged battlemech." But whatever, you might be thinking, because you've become jaded by the Internet, we've seen plenty of scale models of crazy crap before. Nothing special here. And that's actually what is so special about this one: It's not scaled at all. This Gundam statue stands 59-feet-tall at the head.

Here's a scenario: You're in a commuter train, nodding off just slightly on your way home from work. The train rounds a bend and suddenly, this looms into view ...

What do you do?

Did you answer "scream, pull the emergency stop cord, scramble out the window and book ass off the platform before a gargantuan sea-slug gets shoulder-flipped into the passenger car?" You did? Good. That was actually a trick question. If you'd answered anything else, we'd know you were a Sluggoth sleeper agent.

And now, for no particular reason, here's a time-lapse video of it staring down the apocalypse:

Sadly, if you want to see this new wonder of the world for yourself, you're out of luck. The Gundam is no longer standing. It was taken down in March 27th of this year. There are some assurances that it's merely "in preparation for a world tour," but let's face it, that's clearly just PR-speak for "everybody watch out, we lost a 60-foot robot after it spontaneously and inexplicably developed a hatred for all mankind."

T-52 Enryu

The T-52 Enryu is a Japanese machine (wait, another entry from Japan? What are the odds!?) built back in 2004 by a company named Tmsuk. It weighs five tons, and stands 10-feet high. It's also called the Hyper Rescue Robot (thaaat's more like the Japan we know and love) because the mech's primary purpose is to clear a path through wreckage after earthquakes and other disasters. It proved quite effective in performance tests, even lifting an entire car from a snowbank.

Because that's the first thing you want to see after being suddenly buried in rubble, still reeling from the shock and confusion: A giant robot hurling cars out of its path with its cold metal claws because there is nothing on this Earth that can stop it coming right for you.

Don't be fooled by the images, this is not solely an autonomous machine. It's also a mechanical suit: It can actually be entered and driven from a cockpit position, as well as remotely piloted. But why on Earth would you opt to "remotely pilot" that thing when your day job could consist of mounting up into a 10-foot steel killing machine and throwing automobiles across the street? For starters, maybe because this is your RC gear:

That's right: No piddly mouse and keyboard here, you get the full on Robot Jox-style cyborg limb-harness. Did you hear that, just now? That was the sound of the words "firefighter" and "policeman" being scratched out on millions of second grade essays around the world. The words "Japanese rescue worker" are being scrawled hastily above them.

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Robert Brockway

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