It’s not a robot. It’s not computer controlled. It’s an exoskeleton mech suit designed to be ‘worn’ and controlled by a human ‘pilot’. The one-person machine is enormous at 4.5 meters (14.8 feet) tall and 5 meters (16.4 feet) wide, and weighs 4,000 kilograms (8,800 pounds), roughly equivalent to two full-size pickup trucks, or three small cars. Wielding 200 horsepower, the machine is all-electric, using no fossil fuels. The pilot’s movements are amplified by 50, essentially making the operator fifty times stronger and easily able to move or even lift a car.
The electro-mechanical behemoth is called “Prosthesis” by its maker Furrion Exo-Bionics, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. There are other organizations that have built exoskeleton mech suits, but never this big. Some mech suits are designed to aid the disabled by providing mobility they otherwise wouldn’t have. Other designs are meant to augment the wearer’s strength and endurance in difficult jobs such as fire fighting or combat. Most similar projects are still in the experimental phase and have yet to be commercialized.
Prosthesis is the creation of mechanical engineer Jonathon Tippett, who co-founded Furrion Exo-Bionics to build and promote these machines. Mech suits have been, in the past, the domain of science fiction movies, comic books, Japanese manga and anime. In those mediums, the power suits are for combat and other military uses in dystopian futures and alternate realities. Tippett had something else in mind when he first conceived the idea in 2006. He wanted to build a machine “that required skill and celebrated the pilot inside”. Ultimately he realized that competition sports also required skill and celebrated human achievement. With that epiphany, Furrion Exo-Bionics is promoting organized off-road racing sports featuring its Prosthesis mech suits. The exoskeletons, piloted by trained athletes, would compete against one another on race courses complete with natural obstacles such as boulders, trees, hills, valleys, and the like. Perhaps the course would look like a motocross track, but with junk cars laying around as obstacles that had to be moved or climbed over. Like auto racing, the sport would presumably attract paying spectators and television networks.
Because Prosthesis augments the pilot’s physical ability, the size and strength of the human pilot don’t matter at all, although athletic ability and physical fitness would be a must to compete in a race. “Inside the Giant Mech Suit Made for Racing” (7:39):
Question Of The Night: Exoskeleton mech suit sports… thumbs up or thumbs down?