Massive, hulking exoskeleton or mech suits are usually the type of thing one would encounter in a science fiction movie, whether it’s the low-budget classic Robot Jox or the American kaiju blockbuster Pacific Rim.
However, engineering firm Furrion Exo-Bionics has unleashed a colossal, four-legged, 9,000-pound powered exoskeleton dubbed Prosthesis – and anyone interested will be able to take up the controls and pilot the beast.
The company recently launched a wildly popular Kickstarter campaign laying out its mission, which is to start a “global racing league that would pit multiple world-class athletes in head-to-head competitions, through complex technical obstacle courses, wearing giant powered mech suits.”
And while the vision may seem larger-than-life, Furrion and its Prosthesis: Mech Racing research and development team are confident that they can unleash this new class of “large scale exo-bionic technology” and use it to power its global mech racing league.
Backers of the Kickstarter campaign will be eligible to receive “one-on-one mech pilot training” or kick back and watch the mechs kick each other’s butts at live events.
The company’s flagship mech, dubbed Prosthesis: the Anti-Robot, took over three years of field trials – including engineering and pilot training – to create this all-terrain mech suit that has four massive legs and the power to lift cars, run through the snow, and climb boulders.
“We ended up with four legs because the pilot has four limbs, and the machine has the wide stable form factor that it has so that it’s easy to balance,” chief test pilot and project co-founder Jonathan Tippett told CNET.
In a video kicking off the successful crowdfunding campaign, Tippett notes that the mech is “basically a cross between a trophy truck, an excavator, and a dinosaur.”
However, the idea behind Prosthesis isn’t simply passive entertainment – instead, this will require athleticism on the part of mech pilots who will be moving their arms and legs to get these massive machines going, making this a true sport rather than a simple robot exhibition.
“Prosthesis has no joysticks, no steering wheel, no foot pedals – just 100 percent limb-for-limb pilot control,” Furrion explained. “Prosthesis has no automation, no giros, no ability to walk or balance by itself, it relies entirely on the pilot inside for all its movement. Your arm and leg movements are amplified to control its four, giant steel legs, move for move. That’s what makes it a sport.”
Cassie Hawrysh, an accomplished headfirst ice sledding champion from Canada, is the first professional “mech sports” athlete to control the hulking quadrupedal beast. According to Furrion, she was just as surprised as the engineers when she felt a sense of familiarity between her 60-pound skeleton sled and the interface of this 9,000-pound mech suit.
“With the relentless and unchecked automation of everything we do, Prosthesis reminds us that some of the most rewarding things in life are those that require effort, focus and training,” the Kickstarter page said. “This is the very essence of sport. Prosthesis, and mech sports, are a celebration of the age old pursuit of physical mastery and human skill, now brought to a new level through advanced technology.”