Mechs, or giant, pilot-able robots are not particularly widespread in the West, although they are very popular in Japan. So much so that a certain individual decided to spend roughly eleven years building a giant, rhinoceros beetle-shaped mech just because it was his dream.
Hitoshi Takahashi, an engineer and machine shop owner who resides in Ibaraki Prefecture (located in Honshu, or the main Japanese island) stated that he had dreamed of building a beetle-shaped mech for a long time, although it wasn’t until 1997 when Hitoshi turned fifty years old that he decided to make such an idea into a reality. Despite maintaining his regular work schedule, Hitoshi claims “I did it as a hobby” and eventually completed the giant robot in 2008 when he unveiled it for all of Japan to see on the television program Nanikore Chin Hakkei.
The robot, called the KABUTOM RX-03, is inspired by the kabuto beetle, an insect native to Japan. It is 11 meters high, 3.6 meters long, weighs 17 tons, and includes a number of features such as the ability to “walk” on its six legs (although the RX-03 is supported by wheels as well), and can emit steam from its “head.” The legs are mostly for show however, as the wheels underneath are what actually support the RX-03, although the legs are used to direct the robot’s movement. At public appearances, the RX-03 is capable of transporting up to seven passengers, at the cost of two-hundred yen, or the American equivalent of two dollars. The behemoth isn’t exactly intended for travel purposes, as its top speed is 2.5 miles per hour.
To power the enormous robot, the RX-03 is powered by two diesel burning internal combustion engines, and can be controlled either from inside the cockpit (complete with spaceship-style controls) or from a distance with a remote control. The RX-03 is incapable of piloting itself, so there’s no chance of it running amok or acting independently. Since its unveiling, the RX-03 and Hitoshi have made numerous public appearances, such as at the Matsuri Tsukuba and always manage to excite crowds.
Perhaps what is most significant about the KABUTOM RX-03 is that Hitoshi Takahashi built the entire robot all by himself. Unlike the KURATAS mech which had been previously covered in another article, this large mech was built by one individual, whereas the KURATAS was designed with the vision of a similarly-minded individual and the aid of a technology corporation. Also unlike the KURATAS is how the RX-03 is not intended for sale or mass-production, although it is an amazing example of what one individual can accomplish.
Not only are mechs and “walking” robots becoming more widespread, it seems that they are also becoming much more diverse, and all it takes is one individual with a dream, technological know-how and enough spare time.