In 2014, the Gundam Factory Yokohama launched the Gundam Global Challenge for technology, innovation, and design specialists to make a Gundam robot someday. Recent footage revealed that the company's engineers had been teaching their 59-foot robot how to walk.
Named after the Gundam science fiction anime series, the company announced the vision of building a humanoid robot in 2014 with the words translated from Japanese, 'Challenge your dreams, move the Gundam, move the world.' In 2019, the team faced a time that they were stuck and out of solutions.
Yasuo Miyakawa, the Director of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., which owns the subsidiary Gundam company, envisioned to build the robot to 'make it move.' In 2009, he built a giant Gundam statue in Odaiba, Tokyo.
In an interview, he said that as the statue stood for about two months, around four million people went to see it. 'What if it moved?' He believed more people would come and see a moving, walking Gundam.
Building the Gundam
Every week, the team had technical meetings where they plan the movement of the giant Gundam. They discuss in great detail specific wires, mechanics, and many other highly-technical features.
Technical director Insii Hironori shared, "My dream was to build Gundam. That's why I chose science and became an engineer. What shaped my life was Gundam."
Yuno Tomino, the director and author of the original animation, has one of the most important roles in the creation of the Gundam robot. He usually drops by the site to check up on the progress of the engineers.
Learning How to Walk
This year, that vision became a reality. The 'Special Experience' preview this July was meant to be the grand opening for the new Gundam robot, but due to the pandemic, it has been rescheduled to October.
At one informal team gathering in Tokyo, the engineers and scientists are seen playing with mini Gundam action figures where they have derived some of their designs. Some of the toys were 'borrowed' from their kids.
The footage of the 59-foot Gundam is seen with a team of engineers on a crane checking out parts of the body as it leans forward. The robot then leans back upright, then turns its torso from side to side.
Afterward, it raises and lowers its right leg without taking a full step forward yet. The robot's head also wasn't in place during the learning-how-to-walk session. The entire metal structure has hands that are 6 1/2 feet long, with a total weight of about 25 tons.
The head designer, Jun Narita, shared that a hand could have weighed 1,300 tons each if they didn't create it with special materials and motors.
When the Gundam is fully finished, it will have 24 degrees of freedom or be able to walk. While the preview is postponed until further notice, the company continues to prepare for safety precautions for the grand opening in October.