In the Star Wars films, walkers were vehicles that were usually military, that used mechanical legs as its primary method of locomotion over the landscape rather than the more common repulsors, wheels, or treads. Its primary use was for ground assault or transport.
In the original trilogy (the first three Star Wars movies made, IV, V, and VI), there is the All Terrain Armored Transport (AT-AT) and the All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST). In the prequel trilogy (the last three movies made I, II, and III) and the Star Wars Expanded Universe, there are numerous other types of walkers.
Star Wars has popularized the use of walkers and mecha in various media, which usually bear a similar resemblance to the bipedal AT-ST. Star Wars walkers have inspired the use of mecha in film, video games, board games, books, TV shows, and Japanese anime. George Lucas claims that he got the original idea for walkers from the cargo lifters which reside in the port of Oakland.
The definition of Mecha from Wikipedia:
“Mecha, also known as meka or mechs, is a broad genre of walking vehicles which are usually controlled by a pilot. Mecha often appear in anime, science fiction, and other genres involving fantastic or futuristic elements. Mecha are generally, though not necessarily, bipedal, with arms, hands, and usually fingers capable of grasping objects. A mecha that approximates the shape of a human body allows the use of martial arts movements and swordsmanship, ceremonial acts of honor, saluting, and other human mannerisms that cannot be performed using a tank or airplane.
In most fiction in which they appear, mecha are war machines: essentially armored fighting vehicles with legs instead of treads or wheels. Some stories, such as the manga Patlabor and American wargame BattleTech, also encompass mecha used for civilian purposes such as heavy construction work, police functions or firefighting.
Some science fiction universes posit that mecha are the primary means of combat, with conflicts sometimes being decided through gladiatorial matches. Others represent mecha as one component of an integrated military force, supported by and fighting alongside tanks, fighter aircraft, and infantry, functioning as a mechanical cavalry. The applications often highlight the theoretical usefulness of such a device, combining a tank’s resilience and fire power with infantry’s ability to cross unstable terrain. In other cases they are demonstrated with a greater versatility in armament, such as in the Armored Core series of video games where mecha can utilize their hands to carry a wide range of armament in the same manner as a person albeit on a much larger scale.
The distinction between true mecha and their smaller cousins (and likely progenitors), the powered armor suits [also known as powered exoskeletons], is blurred; according to one definition, a mecha is piloted while a powered armor is worn. Anything large enough to have a c*ckpit where the pilot is seated is generally considered a mecha.” Read more…
In real-life a walker (also known as a mecha), is a vehicle that moves on legs rather than wheels or tracks. Walkers have been constructed with anywhere from one to more than eight legs. They are classified according to the number of legs with common configurations being one leg (pogo stick or “hopper”), two legs (biped), four legs (quadruped), and six legs (hexapod).
The Walking Truck (Cybernetic Walking Machine) was an experimental quadruped robot built by General Electric in 1968. It was designed by Ralph Mosher to help infantry carry equipment over rough terrain. The stepping of the robot was controlled by a human operator through foot and hand movements coupled to hydraulic valves. The complex movements of the legs and body pose were done entirely through hydraulics. The hydraulic fluid and pressure was supplied through an off-board system. The Walking Truck can be seen at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum in Fort Eustis, VA. (Wickelgren, 1996). The robot weighted 3,000 pounds and could walk up to 5 miles an hour. It was exhausting to control and operators, according to program lead Ralph Mosher who was the primary driver, could only drive the Walking Truck for a limited time.
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The Land Walker is a one-man, two-legged supposed walker transport, 3.40 metres in height. Made with the assistance of P.A. Technology, the walker is copyright of the Sakakibara Kikai Co. and Ltd.
The vehicle’s design features a c*ckpit, two legs, and two air cannons (each firing large rubber balls which ironically cost more than bullets). The legs end in feet containing wheels that help push the walker forward. The walker’s usual speed is approximately 1.5 km/h. It does not actually walk, however, instead shuffling on wheels hidden under its “feet.” This means it is not technically a walker; it merely has the appearance of one.
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This mecha will not work on terrain that is not entirely flat as it would just fall over.
The T-52 Enryu (T-52 援竜, lit. rescue dragon), sometimes referred to as “HyperRescueRobot”, is a five-ton, 3 meter tall (approx. 10 ft), hydraulically-operated robot, built to cut a path through debris for rescue workers, in the wake of an earthquake or other catastrophe. It can perform heavy lifting of up to one ton, and its arms have the full range of motion available to the human arm. The Enryu was designed by the Japanese company Tmsuk, and a prototype was unveiled in March, 2004 in Japan.
As of 2006, the robot conducted a performance test at Nagaoka University of Technology and successfully lifted a car from a snowbank.
TMSUK developed the robot in cooperation with Kyoto University, the Kitakyushu Fire Department and Japan’s National Research Institute of Fire and Disaster in Tokyo. The 3.5 metre-tall robot can either be driven from a c*ckpit positioned at the front of the robot or it can be controlled remotely as like its cousin the Banryu, it contains multiple CCD cameras which transmit to the remote driver – in this case, it has seven 6.8-megapixel CCD cams mounted on its “head”, “torso” and “arms”.
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John Deere’s hexapod Walking Forest Machine is a type of real walker.
Two smaller walkers, that do not carry a pilot (or passengers), are BigDog and LittleDog who are both used in the military.
Real walkers have been created and are quite possible, although many are limited. For more information on the practicality of mecha as war machines, click here.