When the first Metal Gear 4 trailers first started hitting the net, the Mini Gears (or whatever the walkers are called) garnered a ton of attention. The Gears polarized a lot of opinion, ranging from “holy jeebs is that cool” to “why do the cow-walkers moo??!?”
They were decidedly…different. Some people claimed that the moo-ing was lame and out of place; that it had an unnatural quality about it. After all, why would they moo? But there was something inherently natural about them. The legs were almost sexy; the hips swivelling in a female fashion. We found things about them that were immediately recognizeable. The feet had toes, heels, the legs even seemed to have calf muscles. They slipped, wobbled, and regained their balance. They ran, trotted, and charged.
These things, while amazing, seemed a bit far fetched, and firmly planted in the realm of science fiction, at least until this past week, when it appeared that Metal Gear could be a lot closer to reality than previously suspected. Enter the Boston Dynamics Big Dog project, which I’m sure most of you have seen by now:
This is eerily real, people. It blows Honda’s Asimo out of the water. Note how Big Dog slips on the ice around 1:25 and recovers almost exactly the same way two people hanging onto each other would. The legs move so naturally that someone’s spoof of it actually fools most people into thinking that it’s still the robot at first when in actuality it’s two people moving like the robot.
It even has its own odd sound effect: the chilling buzzing cadence of the gas powered motor. “Why does it sound like bees??” people ask when they first see it. Something 50 times its size sounding like a cow doesn’t seem all that far off, now, does it? The legs are even black (although Big Dog’s are wrapped in fabric), for crying out loud. If Big Dog isn’t the closest thing to a baby Metal Gear, I don’t know what is.
I suppose a good follow-up would be to compare and contrast how closely an artist/designer team and a team full of brainiac engineers came on a concept of a walking robot, especially when one is now a military contractor and the other makes games about future militaries.
But what I really want to know is: how deep does Hideo Kojima’s contacts go? It appears that the Mini Gears (or whatever the walkers are in the newest Metal Gear are; I doubt they are the Metal Gear) aren’t so much science fiction, but a very real possibility of what we could see in 20 years.