If you’re tired of hearing that robots are taking over the world, maybe don’t read this. Because it’s a heartwarming tale of a Star Wars-obsessed little boy who grew up to be a man who made a six-legged monstrosity of hydraulic beauty—and you’ll want to ride it.
Dubbed “Mantis,” it holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest rideable hexapod ever created. At five meters in diameter, Mantis weighs nearly two tons and move at just over 1km per hour (it’s not about speed, but rather the robot’s ability to navigate tough terrain).
Manti’s creator, British animatronics engineer Matt Denton, first became fascinated with machines that can walk after watching the huge mechanical AT-ATs in “The Empire Strikes Back” when he was eight. At 20, he dropped out of college to join the film animatronics industry, going on to make robots for movies that include “Harry Potter” and “Jurassic World.”
Denton started working on Mantis back in 2009 as a creative engineering project. At the time, he had limited understanding of hydraulics, which is key to Mantis’ performance. The hexapod’s diesel engine is connected to a hydraulic pump, which supplies hydraulic fluid to the system. Each leg has three hydraulic actuators that move each joint. By monitoring the position of each joint, the system’s computer knows how to move the legs in a gaited sequence. All we humans have to do to operate it is push forward on a joystick—either inside the robot’s cockpit or via Wi-Fi.
In this video, Denton explains how he’s always been obsessed with making things “better” and “bigger.” We love him already.