ROBOT WARS

An American giant robot just challenged a Japanese giant robot to a duel

Forget BattleBots. In the future, our primetime entertainment will feature massive robots in giant arenas, harking back to the gladiatorial bloodsports of the Greco-Roman era. But with rocket launchers full of paintballs.

At least, that’s the aim of MegaBots, a US-based robotics company that has built a giant robot it wants to fight against Japanese company Suidobashi Heavy Industries’ Kuratas robot. MegaBots co-founder Gui Cavalcanti told Quartz that they’ve challenged Suidobashi in the hopes that it will kickstart their goal of creating a league of giant fighting robots. Once people see the robots fighting, Cavalcanti believes, there will be a moment when the world says, “I definitely need to see this in a sport.”

Cavalcanti, along with fellow co-founders Andrew Stroup and Matt Oehrlein, started working on their first robot in 2014, having been influenced by anime and robots growing up. “We’re children trapped in engineers’ bodies,” Oehrlein said. “We wanted videogames to come to life.”

After an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign to get their robot league off the ground, the team turned to Autodesk, the design software firm, for help. Cavalcanti said the company was impressed by the fact they designed the robot on its software, and agreed to help fund a prototype.

The current MegaBots robot still needs a bit of work before it can get into the ring, Cavalcanti said. Right now, the 15 foot, 12,000 pound robot has a cannon that can shoot custom-made three pound paintballs, and another that can also be used to shoot T-shirts into a crowd. Even if the robot league doesn’t take off, MegaBot should be able to find a job at any arena in the US.

The robot is currently on treads but will be upgraded over the next year to walk on two legs. Cavalcanti said they also want to upgrade its armor “so we don’t die.” “That’s currently an issue,” he added.

Suidobashi has yet to accept MegaBots’ invitation to duel, but it could certainly hold its own if it does. Kuratas was designed by artist Kogoro Kurata and engineer Wataru Yoshizaki in 2012. Like MegaBots’ robot, it’s piloted by a human, but it sits on four wheels instead and has a gatling gun for an arm. It stands about 13 feet tall and weighs around 10,000 pounds.

Japanese anime has a long history of people climbing into giant robots and using them to fight. The Gundam franchise, which has spawned countless TV shows, toys, comic books and video games, is so popular in Japan that the country erected a massive statue of one of the robots in Tokyo.

“Suidobashi, you have a giant robot, we have a giant robot,” Oehrlein says in the video challenge. “You know what needs to happen.”

“In one year, we fight.”

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