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TVTropes has two different entries on Mini-Mecha and Powered Armor, where the former is "something that is piloted" and the latter is "something that is worn". Now, listed in both pages are examples of things which are supposedly halfway between the two concepts, but most of them have no size estimate. So, what is the biggest powered armor / smallest mecha (meant to be used by average-sized humans) that you can think of in hard sci-fi? Is there anything about 8 feet / 2.5 m tall?

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    Interesting question, though I have to say the TV Tropes listing is very extensive - albeit without size info. – Donald.McLean Apr 9 '14 at 14:46
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    I fear this question to be list-inducing. – SQB Apr 9 '14 at 15:10
  • I agree with SQB. Also, while this questions seems to live from the fact that there is no real distinction between the two, it asks for examples from both specific groups. Which makes it a highly opinion-based discussion, at best. – LarissaGodzilla Apr 9 '14 at 15:27
  • Interesting question. I don't think there's a definitive answer about where the line is drawn. For me it would probably be at the point of automation and bulk. If it has actuator extensions and joysticks, it's probably Mini-Mecha. If you have to 'climb into it' as oppose to 'put it on', it's Mini-Mecha. – Morgan Apr 9 '14 at 18:04
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From the top of my mind:

  • The working suit in Aliens is about 3 m tall.
  • The armor of the marines and other infantry in StarCraft is about 2.5 m tall.

I've invented a new criterion for separating them: if the person's fingers fit inside the machine fingers, it is a powered armor. if it has fully robotic fingers or not fingers at all, it is a mecha/mini-mecha.

With that in mind, both of my previous examples are mini-mechas. Generally speaking, any machine of more than 2.5 m will have independent fingers, or else it will need to have very short arms -in proportion- for the user to reach the mechanic hands.

  • This is a sensible criteria, but sometimes the limbs don't even fit inside the robot's limbs. Ironman's fingers fit inside the glove's fingers, but Ironmonger from the same movie obviously didn't even fit human limbs in robot limbs. That might be the better cutoff point. – John O Apr 9 '14 at 15:17
  • @JohnO: Well, Ironmonger is obviously a mini-mecha, isn't it? ;-) The problem with the limbs is that you may fit them only partially, or only the arms, or only the legs... so you might have a half-mecha or something... – rodrigo Apr 9 '14 at 15:22
  • Good point. Anyway, not disputing your criteria, it's definitely the right idea... just quibbling over the details. – John O Apr 9 '14 at 15:23
  • Its like trying to define precisely when a netbook becomes a laptop. There is no where you can place the division, there has to be some field of overlap for such things I think. – Nick Apr 9 '14 at 16:10
  • @Nick Of course it's going to be arbitrary, but I don't think that we can't come to a consensus on it. I suggest that the existence of two different terms implies that we've already got sort of an collective, unconscious idea that there is a distinction and a vague sense of what that is. We might be able to hammer out the details here if we try. – John O Apr 9 '14 at 16:22

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