International giant robot fighting. It’s a thing – or at least it’s soon to be. Back in June, US-based company MegaBots challenged the robotics team at Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries (SHI) to a fist-to-cuffs of epic proportions: a battle between their mech, Mk.II, and SHI’s 4-meter goliath, Kuratas.
Unfazed by the American opponents, Japan accepted with little hesitation. But in a shocking twist of robo-fate, they came back with a challenge of their own: “Make your robot cooler, and make it melee-combat ready.”
America, your champion has come, and it needs your help.
Yesterday, Megabots launched a Kickstarter page detailing plans to upgrade Mk. II from the current model, a light-weight bot built for long-range paintball combat, to a battle-ready Zaku of a machine. The upgrades don’t come cheap (just the baseline necessities sing to the tune of $500,000), but judging by the $142,000 raised day 1, things are looking good.
— MegaBots Inc. (@MegaBotsInc) August 18, 2015
“Meeting our [first] goal means that we get to seriously overhaul the Mk.II,” explains the team. “We’ll build the ridiculously cool weapon systems you see in our concept art, add the shock-mounted steel armor we need to survive multi-ton punches [ohhhh sh**!], beef up our hydraulic actuators to handle the additional weight, and upgrade our power unit to provide 5x the horsepower.”
As if this weren’t enough badassery for one Kickstarter campaign, MegaBots has summoned a robotics dream-team led by former Mythbuster Grant Imahara and BattleBots co-founders Greg Munson and Trey Roski, to help with additional upgrades, should they meet their flex goals.
As it stands, Kuratas has a big speed advantage over Mk II. So Megabots has called in the “super-tank” masters at Howe & Howe Technologies to design a custom track base replacement that will increase the bot’s speed five-fold.
Go, Go, Gadget Punch
Suidobashi Heavy Industry founder Kogoro Kurata made it very clear that he didn’t just plan to win this ro-battle, he planned to win hard. “I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it,” he said in an official response. But if Megabots reaches $750,000, this might be a wee bit more challenging. “This will allow us to design and build the perfect load-out to beat Kuratas,” they say. The planned assortment includes: crushing and grasping claws, pile drivers, pneumatically-driven fists, a giant chainsaw, cannons of all shapes and sizes, and flamethrowers (“just in case”).
The Space Race
Enter DARPA and NASA. No, I’m not kidding. And yes, this is insanity – beautiful, beautiful insanity. At $1 million, IHMC Robotics, the top-placed U.S. team in the DARPA Humanoid Robotics Challenge, will help create a high-end balance control system for Mk II – MegaBots claims this could mean the difference between a solid power stance and a first-round T.K.O.
And for just $250,000 more (really, who’s counting at this point), NASA will sign on to advise safety in the cockpit. “We need make sure we can fight as aggressively as possible while also not blacking out from impacts. Safety 4th, folks.”
If you can believe it, there’s more where that came from, including some amazing perks for donating to the cause over on the campaign page. The battle is rumored to take place July, 2016, in an unknown location. But you can bet your lucky stars we’ll be updating you as more details come forward.
“They have a four year head start on us, and they’ve had plenty of time to practice and get used to their robot and tune its performance,” MegaBots co-founder Gui Cavalcanti told Gizmodo. “These are things we need to be cautious of and respect. But we have a rockstar team, and we built the existing Mk.II incredibly fast. We’ll get it done!”
Check out more images, including concepts for the weapon upgrades, in the gallery below.
IMAGES: MegaBots, NASA