The international battle of giant robots is officially on. Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry announced on Tuesday, July 7th that it had accepted the gauntlet thrown down by U.S. robotics firm MegaBots, and that it had agreed to pit its robotic behemoth Kuratas against U.S. opponent MegaBot Mark II in one year’s time.
Unfortunately, very few other details are available at this time, as MegaBots and Suidobashi still have to work out the details of the match, where it will be held and the prize (aside from overweening national pride, of course).
MegaBots issued the challenge at the end of June
American firm MegaBots first issued the challenge a little over a week ago on June 30th, but it took a few days for Suidobashi to make up their mind to make the robot fight a reality.
More on the robot combatants
In one corner you’ve got the larger American MegaBot at 15 foot tall and more than six tons. This massive machine rolls on tank-like tracks, is designed for two “pilots” and is capable of firing giant paintballs at speeds up to 100 mph.
“We’re bringing video games and science fiction to life in the form of internally piloted giant fighting robots,” MegaBots co-founder Gui Cavalcanti said in a recent interview. The concept was first launched when the MegaBot made its debut on Kickstarter at the end of last year. The giant robot project actually did not meet its ambitious $1.8 million fund raising goal, but the team still ended up developing the Megabot Mark II with some financial assistance from Autodesk.
The Japanese mega-robot KURATAS, however, was launched nearly three years ago now. Of note, a fully functional version of KURATAS been available on Amazon for $1 million since the first of this year.
Suidobashi Heavy Industry’s more svelte KURATAS megabot weighs in at 9,000 plus pounds and is a mere 12-feet high. Keep in mind it is equipped with a giant rapid fire BB gun instead of paintballs, has wheels instead of tracks and only holds a single pilot.
Assuming all the details can be worked out by the two robotics firms, the giant robots will be redesigned and modified for the megabattle, which will go down around a year from now, according to the statement released Tuesday.
Statement from Suidobashi’s Kogoro Kurata
In his reply Facebook and Youtube reply to the MegaBots challenge, Suidobashi CEO Kogoro Kurata said. “It’s interesting, I’ll give them that,” then continued to snipe, “My reaction? Come on guys, make it cooler. Just building something huge and sticking guns on it is… super American.”
Later in his response Kurata said, “we can’t let another country win this. Giant robots are Japanese culture.”
He wrapped up his response by saying: “Yeah, I’ll fight. Absolutely.” He added that he wants the combat to be “melee” style, meaning hand-to-hand with no guns. “I want to punch them to scrap and knock them out to do it,” Kuratas said.
Robotic cars coming soon
On a related topic, according to a recent report from Goldman Sachs research, robotic, self-driving cars are very likely just two or three years away.
In fact, the Goldman team suggests that 2017 will be a “watershed year” for robotic cars, saying that the technology will likely be commercially available assuming they are legal. That said, there are a number of major roadblocks that must bed overcome before self-driving cars become a reality. The GS report highlights that several key issues surrounding the legality of self-driving cars, such as assessing safety and liability, were recently presented at the Vienna Convention on Road traffic.
The Goldman Sachs report notes that the average American spends around 300 to 400 hours per year behind the wheel, and with self-driving cars this time could be used productively.
One benefit of self-driving cars is that people could enjoy more social time together. German automaker Daimler AG showed off a concept car at the Detroit Auto Show early this year featuring four seats facing each other. Daimler claimed it was working to develop cars as a “mobile living space.”
Self-driving cars would also almost certainly reduce the number of accidents. The GS report notes that as many as 1.2 million people are killed in auto accidents every year. While robotic cars would not completely prevent accidents, if all cars were self-driving, the accident rate would be a tiny fraction of what it is today.