American robotics company Megabot and Japanese electronics company Suidobashi Heavy Industry have agreed to battle their robot designs to the bitter end, after the US challenged the Japanese team last week.
Japan’s 9,900 pound single pilot bot called Kuratas will be up against Megabot’s 12,000 pound dual pilot model, Mk. II, in a brawl that will decide who is the best fighting robot maker.
Initially, Megabots said that the fight should happen next year to allow time for both teams to make modifications, if the bots go to war. Co-creator Matt Oehrlein said they would be adapting their “weapon systems, armour panelling, a new hydraulic power plant, faster actuators.” He said for the other team to prepare for battle.
In their video response, Kogoro Kurata, the robots’ namesake and inventor, said: “I’ll fight. Absolutely. It’s interesting, I’ll give them that. But come on guys, make it cooler! Just building something huge and sticking guns on it? It’s super American.”
The Mk. II is equipped with cannons that shoot three-pound paintballs at speeds of up to 100mph (160km an hour): “We’re American, we added really big guns,” Oerhlein said. The Japanese Kuratas uses twin Gatling guns to shoot up to 6,000 BB pellets per minute; the bullets are released when the pilot smiles, hence it being dubbed ‘The Smile Shot’. It’s controlled by a complex targeting system and full heads-up display (HUD). Humans control the bots from cockpits inside the exoskeletons, rather than operating them remotely, sited elsewhere in safety.
Megabots co-founders Oehrlein and Gui Cavacanti recorded their challenge from “the densest concentration of cutting-edge robotics research this side of the Mississippi,” where their “gasoline-powered fury” of a robot was the product of “American innovation and determination.”
Robots are a big part of the Japanese ethos, with anime (animation) and manga (comics) featuring them for decades. Kurata said: “We can't let another country win this. Giant robots are Japanese culture. If we’re going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down, to do it.”
Kuratas moves with four wheels, installed on individual legs, and has 30 hydraulic actuators. It’s powered by a diesel engine and is almost four metres tall. America’s machine is powered by a 24HP Honda gas engine spinning a hydraulic gear pump and is bigger than its Japanese counterpart, standing at 4.6 metres tall. Mk. II moves on two tracks from a CAT 289c skidsteer, known to be one of the largest ever made. Its legs are A36 plate steel, with 13 degrees of freedom across 20 hydraulic actuators.
Kuratas was originally unveiled in 2012 and is commercially available as a ‘starter kit’ for around £1m on Amazon’s Japanese site. The younger Mk. II debuted in 2015, but modifications to both machines will determine who the best fighter is.
The venue and date for the bot battle has yet to be set.