PS 1

For years, science fiction movies have been teasing us with visions of high-tech wonders that remain frustratingly just out of reach. Where are our flying cars? Shouldn’t we at least have those hovering skateboards by now? How is it we can put a man on the moon, but we haven’t perfected an automated kitchen that can read our thoughts and cook what we want for dinner?

But today, the waiting ends for one of our technology-based dreams, as we operate a powered robot suit from anime and manga hit Appleseed.

Last year, Japanese company Sagawa Electronics showed off its robotic exoskeleton called the Powered Jacket MK3. Anime and science fans the world over rejoiced, but despite the undeniable engineering skill involved, the MK3 isn’t exactly heroic-looking.

PS 19

Sure, a robot suit is a robot suit, but deep down inside we all wished for a beefier design, and maybe a splashier paint job. Really, we wanted something more akin to the powered armor suits called Landmate Guges from Appleseed, the seminal post-apocalyptic comic created and drawn by manga legend Shirow Masamune.

Sharing the sentiment was Dai Nihon Giken, a manufacturer of models, garage kits, and other anime-related merchandise. Dai Nohon Giken’s love for the Ladmate Guges is strong enough that the company previously released a gigantic, full-scale papercraft version of it.

Now, the company’s craftsmen have created a set of attachable armor that turns the MK3 into what we’d been wanting all along.

PS 4

The body panels are made out of a type of urethane called Lion Board, used in making model kits and replica weapons. The pieces are attached to the MK3, so rather than being a whole new machine, it’s more like Sagawa’s original creation is wearing a costume.

▼ The Landmate Guges-type MK3, seen here with cosplayer Shin doing a little dress-up of her own as Appleseed heroine Deunan.

PS 2

PS 3

However, this isn’t a mere display piece. The MK3 is a functional powered exoskeleton, and none of the accouterments of the Landmate Guges version get in the way of its operation. As proof, we attended a recent exhibition where we its creators let us try out the suit for ourselves.

Unfortunately, the cramped quarters of the venue meant that we had to manipulate the suit’s top and bottom halves separately. Let’s take a look at the legs, which measure 150 centimeters (4 feet, 11 inches).

▼ Seen here with RocketNews24 reporter/mecha ace Meg

PS 13

The legs are a little tricky to manipulate, with a motion Meg described as similar to walking on a pair of stilts. Sagawa Electronics Director/CEO Kosuke Machi, though, demonstrated that with enough practice it’s possible to walk with no problems, and assured us that most people can get the hang of it in about 30 minutes.

▼ One minute down, 29 to go!

PS 14

Controlling the upper half of the exoskeleton, though, was a snap. The torso section swings up to reveal a cockpit, where Meg strapped herself in.

PS 5

PS 6

PS 7

PS 11

The cockpit is also equipped with a series of monitors. Once the hatch is closed, the screens switch on, providing the operator with views of the outside world, including one from a rear-mounted camera.

PS 10

The exoskeleton’s sensors read the operator’s arm movements and relay them to the suit, mimicking the human’s movements. The unit’s head can be operated by similar means. Although there’s a bit of time lag, the system works smoothly, and even allows for the user to open and close the fingers of the robot’s hands using switches on the control grips

PS 8

PS 9

The Landmate MK3 still isn’t 100 percent finished yet, as evidenced by its unpainted legs. For mecha-heads interested in seeing the completed version, its developers plan to exhibit it at the upcoming winter Wonder Festival, a garage kit and modeling expo being held at the Makuhari Messe convention center, where there should be ample space to show the fully-assembled robot off. Doors open for the one-day event at 10 a.m. on February 9.

Who knew the future was so close?

Related: Sagawa Electronics, Dai Nihon Giken, Wonder Festival
Photos, videos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]