Battlebots: Japan and the US to Clash in Giant Robot Fight

A giant robot fight will happen sometime next year.

I won’t try and justify this by the metal content — which is interesting in its own right  — or by the turn of fortunes that has been created by taking an old repair shop for cargo ships and turning into a new industrial enterprise, admirable as that is, no this posts stands on its own two mechanical feet as pure fun.

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The robot constructors of the American entry are three engineers who basically wanted to live out their childhood fantasies and build a fighting robot. Weighing in at 12,000 lbs. and measuring some 15-ft. tall the MegaBot MKII is everything a child could imagine and more.

MegaBot Mk11
MegaBot MKII. Image courtesy of MegaBot.

The backers have found a worthy opponent in Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries Kuratas, against whom they can wage war.

In this Corner, Representing Japan: Kuratas

Kuratas looks decidedly more high tech but, weighing in at only 9,000 lbs., it remains to be seen if it will be up to the task. Arguably SHI has more to lose, Kuratas cost over a million dollars to build yet, giving away a weight and height advantage (it’s only 4 meters to MegaBot’s 5), it will have to rely on speed and agility rather than raw power. Kuratas does, however, have a better instructional video that duly warns “Kuratas is an art piece. It is not a normal vehicle, so it doesn’t guarantee your safety and comfort. However, it does make your dream of becoming a robot pilot come true.”

Suidobashi Heavy Industries' Kuratos
Suidobashi Heavy Industries’ Kuratas Image: SHI.

The conditions of the fight are that it is hand-to-hand, this presumably negates use of machine guns, grenade launchers or missiles. It’s worth noting that neither ‘bot was designed with lethal weapons. Kuratas can shoot water bottles and has a gatling BB gun. We’ll have to wait for the MKIII for the rocket launchers and missiles, I guess.

In this Corner, Representing the USA: MegaBot MKII

A venue has not been fixed, but the first international bragging rights bout is expected to take place sometime next year. Meanwhile MegaBot’s creators are working to replace its tracks with self stabilizing legs. Kuratas has three self-stabilizing wheel legs, so it can right itself should it be knocked down by a wicked punch from MegaBot MKII. If the MKII gets knocked off its treads it’s out of commission in its current state.

Megabot MKII
The MegaBot MKII with two of its engineer “fathers.” Image: Megabot.

Interestingly (and perceptively) the backers see robot fighting to be like Formula One or NASCAR motor racing — an inherently high-risk spectator sport, and like those business models potentially very lucrative according to a QZ article. Also like motor sports, the competition to be bigger, faster, stronger or more agile could spur innovation in robotic technology, an area of huge potential benefit for a global economy that has failed to improve productivity in recent years.

Meanwhile, we think it’s a fun idea and are looking forward to the first contest being brought to the masses, either via television or YouTube.

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