Giant man-piloted robots to slug it out in international grudge match

The future is here, and as robot sports take off, it's finally living up to its potential.

It's happening.

In early July, U.S.-based MegaBots, which is developing a giant fighting robot, challenged Suidobashi Heavy Industry, a Japanese robotics company founded by artist Kogoro Kurata, to a fight. Kurata accepted, and the fight is scheduled for sometime in 2016, location TBD.

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Suidobashi Heavy Industry's Kuratas Robot

MegaBots, Inc., wants to use cutting-edge robotics technology to create the giant piloted fighting robots of science fiction. Naturally, it then wants those robots to throw down, ideally in some kind of organized international fight league.

The company tried to raise close to two million dollars through Kickstarter last year to build two giant fighting robots, reports Business Insider. The idea was that a fight would generate enthusiasm for a new sport, which would prompt further development. When that campaign failed, MegaBots decided to go ahead and make one of their robots and then find a competitor.

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Mark II from MegaBots

The MegaBots Mark II is a 15-foot-tall, internally piloted humanoid that's equipped to fire "cannonball-sized paintballs" at other bots "at speeds of over 120 miles per hour," according to the company. The MegaBots are designed to fall apart as they take blows. "As the robots battle, armor panels crack and break off, smoke and sparks pour out of the robots, limbs eventually fall off, and robots fall to the ground until only one is left standing," explains the company's website.

Upping the ante -- and the cool factor -- is the fact that the Mark II is piloted by two people who sit in a caged space inside the 12,000-pound bot's chest. Have I mentioned: IT'S HAPPENING!

Suidobashi Heavy Industry promises to put up a tough fight. Since 2012, the Japanese organization has been refining Kuratas, a 13-foot tall, 8,000 pound human ride robot named after the organization's founder and inspired by Mecha, a sci fi genre centering around battling robots.

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The challenge came in the form of a video issued by MegaBots, and it was accepted in a response video featuring Kogoro Kurata. Both videos hammed up the sense of national pride at stake.

If the challenge was a preplanned publicity stunt (ahem ...), the notion of two giant robots fighting points to a very interesting trend: As robotics becomes cheaper and as technical barriers to entry fall thanks to refined operating systems like ROS and design packages like AutoDesk, we're going to see a lot more robot-based competition in popular culture. Drone racing is one recent example, and giant fighting robots may be just around the corner.

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