Earlier this month we brought you news of a proposal to build a full-scale, operational AT-AT as a means of “making America awesome again.” Not surprisingly, that idea bit the dust (in its original form at least) when Lucasfilm got involved.
But the question remains—would it even have been technologically and financially feasible? Science journalist Jeremy Hsu throws in his two cents after the break.
Making a modern-day robotic walker is not impossible, said Heiko Hoffman, a robotics expert at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, Calif., but it easily could cost $100 million or more.
“[The cost] would likely be much higher for a seriously armored vehicle,” Hoffman said of the cost. “If we just build an AT-AT that looks cool, it could be much cheaper.”
The AT-AT walker lumbers along like a mechanical elephant, lifting just one foot at a time. That “statically stable” walking style works for a heavy vehicle, because the center of mass always sits above a “triangle” created by keeping three feet on the ground, Hoffman said.
But building a huge 50-foot-tall walker is challenging because structural strength does not increase on par with sheer mass, Hoffman explained. A vehicle 10 times the size of a smaller model might have a supporting beam 10 times larger, but it would have to support a mass 1,000 times greater.
The AT-AT walker also must deal with huge stress on its leg joints, which makes running virtually impossible.
Indeed, putting legs on a large robot probably isn’t the most practical design. And let’s not forget that they were traveling at light speed and blowing up planets with lasers in the film. We aren’t quite there yet.