Remembering the Walking Robot of 1969

Each morning I pick a random music station on Netflix and enjoy some oldies but goodies while catching up on the news and downing my Starbucks-Red Bull combo. This morning I heard Bryan Adams’ Summer of 69 (still a great song). I started thinking about robotics and just how far we’ve come in the past two decades and wondered what kinds of robotic projects were around in 1969. Honestly, I had no idea what I’d find (or if I’d find anything at all). Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the 3000 lb. monster above (actually built in 1968). Naturally, I had to research it and post my findings. Enjoy, and let me know if you would drive this beast if given the opportunity.

Giant walking vehicles predominate science fiction stories. Many of these stories focus on the intimate aspects of the interface between humans and machines. Human warriors extend their reach and strength by using robotic suits in many works of fiction. In 1968, Ralph Mosher built one of the first mechanical systems that allowed real soldiers to become machines. While this seems to be ancient history, there is no telling what other classified technology came out of the experiments.

General Electric’s Walking Truck was large and cumbersome. However, it proves that building robots that are directly under the control of human pilots is possible. It also raises important questions about the line between organic and mechanical. Steps taken by the robot were not issued through a remote control, but rather through the movements of a human’s hand and feet. Hydraulic devices were able to interpret the motions of the human pilot.

Interestingly enough, these movements were hardly effortless. Ralph Mosher was only able to pilot the machine for a relatively short period of time. One could interpret this as a suggestion that the human operator had to work every bit as hard as the machine. Extrapolated versions of this technology could easily work with a human pilot that has received certain neural interface implants. That is assuming, of course, that such implants are developed in a safe and effective manner.

Fans of futurist thinking can view the machine at the Fort Eustis U.S. Army Transportation Museum. I personally would love to see it up close.

GE Walking Truck – Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine (CAM) 1969.

The GE Cybernetic Anthropomorphous Machine (CAM) from 1969.

Image Credits: General Electric Photo Archives

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