BATTLE BOTS

MegaBots is finally going to take on Japan in the world’s first giant robot duel

Two summers ago, a group of American roboticists formed a company called Megabots, and released a video challenging a Japanese collective to a giant robot fight. About a week later, the Japanese group, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, agreed to clash robots.

After over two years of robot-building and excessive YouTubing of the process—and a year after MegaBots originally said they would fight—the two teams are nearly ready to engage. MegaBots’ co-founders, Matt Oehrlein and Gui Cavalcanti, announced today that its battle against Suidobashi’s robot will take place in September. The battle would have happened a bit sooner, but apparently there have been “logistical issues at the originally-chosen venue,” according to a release shared with Quartz by MegaBots.

Some of the challenges are the sorts of things that most venues probably wouldn’t have contended with before, unless two giant robots had already fought there:

Logistical issues for an event of this magnitude have included: whether or not the venue’s floor can support the weight of giant robots falling, having sufficient power and utilities available to work on the robots, safety containing a fight between extremely heavy and powerful machines, being able to access the venues with heavy trucks used to transport the robots, and more.

MegaBots’ 12-ton, 16-foot robot, which it’s very patriotically calling “Eagle Prime,” has shipped to the as-of-yet undisclosed duel location. The new robot can move quicker and punch faster than the original robot MegaBots built. It has seats for a pilot and a gunner, and features a cannon arm for shooting massive paintballs, and a giant claw for grappling opponents. MegaBots said it’s also built other weapons that can be swapped onto the robot, including a chainsaw and a very large drill.

Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the battle in action—presumably including those who backed the Kickstarter project to the tune of $550,000 to bring this robot to life—the event will be closed to the public and recorded, for fears over the teams’ ability to keep spectators safe. (One of the earliest conversations MegaBots had with Suidobashi was trying to figure out how the human pilots inside the robots would themselves “figure out how to not die.”)

Fans will be able to watch the fight on MegaBots’ Facebook and YouTube sites, but it’s not clear whether the fight will be live.

Oehrlein and Cavalcanti standing rather proudly between their old and new robots.
Oehrlein and Cavalcanti standing rather proudly between their old and new robots. (MegaBots)

Whether this battle, so long in the making, will become the catalyst to a robot-fighting sports media empire that Oehrlein and Cavalcanti exclusively told Quartz they hope to create, remains to be seen. But in the intervening two years, the two teams have already found a new challenger from a Chinese team, so it’s entirely possible, that if MegaBots’ televised fight is a success, we could see a robot-fighting league taking over our screens, like a supersize version of the UFC fights that now dominate the sports world. But with more cannons.


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The genesis of MegaBots and the future of giant fighting robots

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