Computational creativity and the future of AI

Mantis – a two ton turbo diesel hexapod you can drive


April 2, 2013

Mantis, built by Matt Denton of Micromagic Systems, is the largest operational hexapod in ...

Mantis, built by Matt Denton of Micromagic Systems, is the largest operational hexapod in the world

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The term mad scientist gets thrown around quite a bit, but in the case of one Matt Denton it most certainly applies. His company, Micromagic Systems, has been working steadily over the past four years to design and build a walking robot that's big enough to carry a human passenger. The resulting beast is described as "the biggest, all-terrain operational hexapod robot in the world."

The robot weighs a massive 1,900 kg (4,188 pounds), stands 2.8 meters (9.18 ft) tall, and is powered by a Perkins 2.2 liter turbo diesel engine and hydraulics. It's outfitted with a variety of sensors (including force transducers, angle sensors, and an inclinometer) that help it walk. A Linux PC running HexEngine – software designed to control hexapod locomotion – takes care of the 18 hydraulic actuators in its legs, while a panel PC puts you in the driver's seat.

"This is definitely the largest hexapod we have built so far," says Micromagic founder and Mantis' chief designer Matt Denton. His company, which produces animatronics for the film and television industry, has worked on hexapods before – including one that appeared as a six-legged turtle in the Harry Potter films. Mantis, however, was a passion project that is now being rented for events.

Matt Denton, chief designer and founder of Micromagic Systems, sits in the cockpit of his ...

This isn't the only ginormous hexapod robot being built. A team from Massachusetts is working on one of a similar size called Stompy, following a successful Kickstarter campaign last year. However, Matt and his team beat them to the punch with Mantis, which you can see in action in the video below.

Source: Mantis Robot, Mantis Facebook page

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers.   All articles by Jason Falconer

I can see where this is going. Make it a bit bigger... Straighten out the legs... Add Lasers to the front... Wipe out the rebel base on Hoth...

2nd April, 2013 @ 08:59 am PDT


2nd April, 2013 @ 12:23 pm PDT

I'm not sure why this is so new.

6-legged Timberjack Walking machines have been around for a long time for forestry work. They use them because they do less ground damage than the normal tracked or wheeled harvesters.

(see video of one at

They're kind of cool.

2nd April, 2013 @ 12:37 pm PDT

Although the post-apocalyptic setting offered plenty of drama, it was quite notable that the Mantis was only shown to crawl as a breathtakingly slow pace on perfectly level and flat terrain. Ironically, a mantis only uses 4 legs to ambulate, so even the name is sort of wrong here.

2nd April, 2013 @ 01:49 pm PDT

@sk8dad. So build something better!!! PLEASE! and you can even pick your own name!

Matt Denton
3rd April, 2013 @ 02:14 am PDT

From the nothing new department.

The John Deere Walking Forest Machine was a prototype built and run in 1994 and currently sits on display in Moline IL.

It probably never went into production because they did not have the portable computing power that is now available, to automate most of the functions.

Robin McCabe
3rd April, 2013 @ 08:38 am PDT

This is fantastic! Great work Matt!

Now when can I order one of those giant robots from Pacific Rim? :)

3rd April, 2013 @ 09:31 am PDT

@Evildeer, that Timberjack walking machine looks designed for two dimension space, not three. No agility.

This is different...and I might say...a similar device has been on my drawing board.

Ant's have very nimble legs with 5 joints, which would be superior on rough terrain and a forked claw for holding onto.

I have the a double Rexroth flow and pressure compensated pump(s) for operating two leg circuits, operating in sets of three in contact with the ground at all times. Rapid and precise movement, coordinated in 3d space is a challenge that can be overcome with computers and hydraulics today. I hope a couple sets of large cartridge valve banks are in my future.

The above is a great advancement in the technology and I hope to see more of it.

3rd April, 2013 @ 10:04 am PDT

That's not new tech at all. Those arms/legs are from construction equipment vehicles. paint it grey and tadaa. If it was going to be special, first off, it needs to be fast with the ability to climb since it has legs and grasp, anyway..

3rd April, 2013 @ 12:38 pm PDT

Give the project a "A+" for presentation! But the demonstration left a lot to be desired.

Charles O. Slavens
3rd April, 2013 @ 03:39 pm PDT

Too Cool ..Dont let us arm chair wanabee's get under your skin Matt..We are just jealous because we cant do what you are doing..Your livin the dream..Get some

Roger Aikins
3rd April, 2013 @ 10:18 pm PDT

A few clarifications and suggestions:

1.As pointed out by Seilertechco, the Timberjack walking machine is not stable on certain terrain. The Mantis design can accommodate more extreme terrain if upgraded.

2.An upgraded hydraulic system and chassis will increase speed of movement and ability to tolerate more inclines as well as climbing of structures.

3.Improvements to stability already resolved out from the likes of Boston Dynamics could migrate into this platform if the intellectual space was shared. i.e. – Child of Bigdog and Mantis.

These machines would scale well though. A hex tank utilizing excavator arms from a 50-100 tonne rated machine, e.g. –Komatsu PC850 with upgraded hydraulics and cooling to tolerate faster movement, would require approximately 400kw(500kw upgraded) per arm, or equivalent to 3000kw (3900hp) for the whole system.

An SD70 (General Motors Electro-Motive Division (EMD) Diesel Electric) locomotive engine can happily provide this amount 24 hours a day, and is a lazy engine so lots of overhead to accommodate an additional 1000-2000kw. For the hex tank, it would only be required in bursts unless the thing was in constant movement.

Joint articulation can be provided by wheel motors from a CATERPILLAR 770 or 790 series truck (also a diesel electric)

In broad strokes, cost would be approximately $1,500k for the arms and shoulder joint articulation, $600k for chassis and upgrades to hydraulics, $2,500k for the engine and transmission, and $300k for the control equipment and software.

For a base model ~$5.5Mill is relatively affordable.

If applied to the war machine, I can think of nothing more demoralizing for the enemy then a 100 foot mechanical spider walking towards their position.

As a mobile weapons platform with active defense against rockets and mortars it would be extremely difficult to disable as it can cross most terrain (even if at a relatively slow speed).

Swamps and bogs would not slow it down as hard ground is only meters below the muck. And wider pads on the feet may be installed for sandy/ice environments. Yes, Starwars does come to mind, but only coincidental :))

3rd April, 2013 @ 10:22 pm PDT

I favour the Mondo Spider because it isn't computerized and is purely mechanical.

It's been on Youtube for years and has also been to Burning Man.

It is much more appealing to me to build something that complicated that does not use computerized assistance in its actual operation.

It can move pretty fast,too - faster than this one, so far.

Really, I prefer wheels&wings.

Cool stuff,though..

4th April, 2013 @ 01:35 am PDT

Rehash of old design, a computer free one like this was built just after the Civil War, it had cannons and flame throwers, it was featured in an old west documentry movie :)

Tom Swift
4th April, 2013 @ 03:07 pm PDT

Until you said documentrary I thought you were refering to a movie Will Smith was in. I hope they keep making improvements to this concept. Adding a couple of arms in front would be cool. Slipping your hands into a pair of gloves that mimic the arm/finger movements would make a great trench digger. Comparable to a giant dog digging.

5th April, 2013 @ 05:35 pm PDT

sk8dad, take a better look, there are 6 functional legs, not 4.

It's awesome, but it needs to be able to get up to at least 20 miles per hour and have automatically adjusting feet that can land on any surface, no matter how rough, and if climbing walls/trees could be added, so much the better.

Dave Andrews
11th April, 2013 @ 10:31 am PDT

While I like the idea of multi-legged mecha far better than the bipedal, they are still not practical weapon platforms. Even if the suggested upgrades worked, the whole would be a target for everything within miles of it. Active defenses are getting better, but not that good yet (afaik).

Now, I have a few thoughts on how small robotic ones could be used as scouting platforms, but in most cases wheels or tracks are probably better overall.

Leave the mecha in the Anime where they belong. They can be great fun that way, and the animators can make sure they work.

Greg Ewing
18th April, 2013 @ 01:10 pm PDT

Hey Matt (Inventor),

Just to say PLEASE Don't listen to the Detractors!!! They are the sort of couch potatoes (Usually) that do nothing, but feel they can comment on other ppls superb work and achievements. I for one am so glad that humans still have pioneers such as yourself who WILL invent, create and stress test things that may one day make our world a better place to be.

Even if you never make it to the level of Da Vinci, Tesla etc, at least You ARE Trying and that my friend is the Most important thing, actually doing things and not just sitting on your butt reading of others achievements.

5th May, 2013 @ 08:26 am PDT

One important distinction between the hexapod vehicle described in this article and Stompy, is that the Massachusetts-based project is completely open source (all the plans, instructions, software, etc. will be published when it is complete) and is deliberately using the lowest-possible cost components so that anyone who wants their own human-carrying and piloted hexapod vehicle will be able to build on themselves for a reasonable cost (for such a thing). Take a look at their web site for more details or google Project Hexapod if my link is rejected by the comment system:

9th May, 2013 @ 12:47 pm PDT
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