At Innovation News Daily, science journalist Jeremy Hsu explores what it would take to make Mike Koehler's AT-AT For America dream a reality.
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.
Innovation News Daily: Could America Really Build a "Star Wars" AT-AT Walker?
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.