Amazon held its “exclusive,” invitation-only conference for experts in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics and space exploration in Palm Springs, CA on March 20th. CEO Jeff Bezos had the opportunity of a lifetime at the MARS ( Machine learning, home Automation, Robotics and Space Exploration) conference thanks to South Korean robotics manufacturer Hankook Mirae Technology. Jeff operated an exoskeleton that looked like the AMP suits from the movie Avatar. The 13-foot walker known as “Method-2,” first came to the public’s attention when Hankook Mirae Technology posted a YouTube video seen below in December of 2016. GeekWire tells us how it all unfolded.
If you’re one of Amazon’s competitors, be afraid. Be very afraid. Jeff Bezos, the Seattle-based online giant’s billionaire founder, has tweeted a picture of himself at the controls of a giant robot. And he’s smiling.
“Why do I feel so much like Sigourney Weaver?” Bezos can be heard saying in a video clip from the demonstration, which took place at a hush-hush conference organized by Amazon in Southern California.
This robot isn’t meant to fight off scary xenomorphs like the one that menaced Weaver’s character in the movie “Aliens.” And it’s not designed to deliver packages, either. It’s the 14-foot-tall Method-2 robot, developed at Hankook Mirae Technology’s lab near Seoul in South Korea.
To create the 1.5-ton monstrosity, Hankook Mirae’s engineers worked with Hollywood robot designer Vitaly Bulgarov, who has been involved in mech-monster movie franchises such as Transformers, RoboCop and Terminator.
Method-2 is controlled by a pilot who sits inside a cockpit in the robot’s torso, as Bezos demonstrates in the picture he tweeted.
The contraption been compared to the exoskeletons seen in such movies as “Avatar” and “Aliens,” or the giant Gundam robots from Japan’s popular anime TV series.
Last December, AFP quoted Hankook Mirae’s chairman, Yang Jin-Ho, as saying that Method-2 serves as the prototype for a breed of robots that could take on tasks “in extreme hazardous areas where humans cannot go.” Some have even speculated, hopefully jokingly, that the robot could be deployed at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea.
Yang said he expected the robot to be ready for sale by the end of 2017, at an estimated price of $8.3 million (10 billion South Korean won). At the time, Bulgarov said there was a real-world application already in development, “but I’m not allowed to say more at this moment.”
MARS 2017 isn’t exactly an off-planet event, but it is off the grid. It’s this year’s running of an annual invitation-only gathering for leaders in the fields of Machine learning, home Automation, Robotics and Space exploration.
Last year’s inaugural MARS event, organized by Amazon, took place at the Parker Palm Springs resort in California, and featured serving trays borne by Amazon’s Kiva robots, tons of talks by tech brainiacs, and Bezos wearing a robotic exo-suit that’s designed to simulate the effects of aging.
We haven’t yet heard anything more about this year’s conference, other than the oohs and ahhs of attendees who saw Bezos in action. But be assured we’ll keep you in the loop if we come across any more MARS sightings.
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