The Transformers movies rely heavily on CGI - computer-generated imagery - but if a team of Japanese engineers meets its goal, we might have a real-life robot ready to take a starring role in the next Michael Bay iteration. Called Project J-Deite and developed by a team called Brave Robotics, this robot will stand 3.5 metres tall and weigh around 700 kg. After a few seconds of transformation, it will be able to convert into a working automobile with space for two people and a top speed of 64 km/h (40 miles/h). On foot, the robot will still be capable of travelling 32 km/h (20 miles/h), according to the inventors.
The promotional video above shows off a working model that's a quarter of the size of the finished robot, and you can see it successfully shift shape from an Optimus Prime look-a-like to a fully functioning miniature car. If the engineers manage to pull this off, it's going to be an incredible feat - and they've set a deadline of 2017 for a working model.
There's some serious backing behind this endeavour too. Brave Robotics has just announced that it's received funding from Asratec Corporation, a division of mobile phone giant SoftBank. Considering SoftBank is estimated to be worth about US$70 billion, it looks like there'll be enough cash flow to keep the project going, assuming the team is able to get the science right.
You may remember SoftBank was behind another robot called Pepper, launched last year, which is able to read human emotions and speak 17 different languages in conversations with its owners. The tech firm has poured millions of dollars into robotic research, which may ultimately make its way into its smartphones in some form or another.
Kenji Ishida is the man behind the idea and the main inventor of this "Transformable Robot Creator", and he says he's been working on the concept since high school. For him, it's the transformational aspect that makes a robot a robot, but it's not clear if his original inspiration was the 1980s animated series.
He's being joined on Project J-Deite by Wataru Yoshizaki, chief robot creator at Asratec. Involved in robotics for all his life, Yoshizaki is responsible for creating the V-Sido software used for communicating with robot technologies. Together Ishida and Yoshizaki are working hard to make the Transformer a reality - and if they manage it, future Transformers films could start looking a whole lot more realistic. As yet though, there's no word if this creation will be a good Autobot or an evil Decepticon.