Now that we’re living in the age of giant fighting robots, it’s time to update the list of things a fully capable member of society needs to be able to do. And while many anime make piloting a huge mecha as simple as falling into the cockpit and learning as you go, it’d be irresponsible to assume things are so easy in the real world.
That’s why we sent one of our reporters to check out a 15,000-kilogram (33,000-pound) giant robot that’s on display in Tokyo right now. Not only is it awesome to look at, its creators will even let you take it for a virtual test drive.
We sent our Japanese-language correspondent Mr. Sato out to Odaiba, the man-made island on Tokyo Bay where you’ll also find the life-size statue of Gundam. From now until August 31, the Odaiba Yume Tairiku Dream Mega Natsu Matsuri (which translates out to “Odaiba Dream Continent Dream Mega Summer Festival,” because you can never have too many dreams, right?) is being held on the grounds of the Fuji TV headquarters. In addition to musical and comedy performances, plus exhibits and events related to the broadcaster’s most popular programs, there’s also a display booth being run by Taguchi Industrial Co., Ltd.
Don’t let Taguchi’s button-down name fool you. While industrial machinery is the Okayama Prefecture-based company’s bread and butter, it’s spicy fried chicken is the massive Super Guzzilla robot, which stands four meters (13.1 feet) tall and measures seven meters long.
The Super Guzzilla, which far outweighs Suidobashi Heavy Industry’s 4,000-kilogram Kuratas robot, starts life as a Hitachi Construction Machinery wheel loader, the kind of vehicle you see running around at construction sites with a large scoop in front of it to push and carry earth and debris. Taguchi then adds custom steel bodywork, plus a pair of its Guzzilla scissor-handed appendages, which can be configured to cut, crush, or pulverize, according to the company’s website.
But as intimidating as those functions all sound, the Super Guzzilla apparently has a soft side, too, as it shows in this video where it dances to idol unit AKB48’s “Heavy Rotation.”
▼ Jump to 2:15 for where the music starts
But as impressive as the Super Guzzilla is to look at, Mr. Sato didn’t come all this way just to gawk in awe at it. He came to learn how to be a real-life mecha jock, so into the cockpit he climbed.
▼ Mr. Sato, ready to save the world, or ruin it trying.
However, Taguchi seems to have realized that giving the public access to a 15-metric-ton robot with pulverizing hands would be dangerous, as several of them would immediately use it to crush their cheating ex’s house/set up their own independent state as a haven for nationless soldiers of fortune/chase down their coworkers who’re so smug about their Mad Max motor scooters.
▼ “That stinkin’ Go Hattori thinks he’s so cool!”
So while the Taguchi staff will teach you how to pilot the Super Guzzilla, the controls on the display model can’t actually move the machine’s arms and wheels. Instead, they’re connected to an Oculus Rift virtual piloting program.
Still, Mr. Sato describes the VR experience as incredibly realistic, as the seat moves in conjunction with what’s happening in the simulation projected by the head-mounted display. He says the experience is sure to delight anyone who’s ever dreamed of piloting a mecha, and likes to remind us of his newly acquired skills whenever we’re debating whose turn it is to go pick up drinks for everyone at the convenience store.