Giant Robot Smackdown 2016: Has the U.S. Been Given the Advantage?
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Giant Robot Smackdown 2016: Has the U.S. Been Given the Advantage?

In choosing to limit next year's robot duel to melee only, Japan may have surrendered the upper hand.

Giant Robot Smackdown 2016: Has the U.S. Been Given the Advantage?

Ladies. Gentlemen. Lovers of wanton destruction and machines punching other machines in the face: I am amped for what may very well be the first event of its kind.

As many of you may know, American robotics company MegaBots, recently issued a public challenge to their Japanese rival, Suidobashi Heavy Industry, for the right to be crowned the very best in their narrow, but extremely popular, field of engineering. The terms were simple—two combatants enter, but only one leaves.

“We have a giant robot. You have a giant robot. You know what needs to happen,” MegaBots CEO Matt Oehrlein declared in a video uploaded to YouTube.

Suidobashi Founder Kogoro Kurata reacted enthusiastically to the idea of a duel, stating that he personally would pilot his company’s creation.

“We can’t let another country win this,” Kurata said in his response video. “Giant robots are Japanese culture.”

If all goes as planned, the year 2016 will bear witness to an epic showdown between the U.S.’ MegaBot mark II and the Japanese teams’ Kuratas, two massive, human-piloted mechs straight out of science fiction.

Projects like these are what popular culture has been demanding of robotic engineering for decades, and for me it was difficult not to get swept away by the hype. But let’s be real. The limitations of the industry can only come so close to our overblown expectations.

We’re all hoping the battle will look something like this:

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But what we get may be closer to this:

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That's not to say these robots aren't capable of causing serious damage. Both the MegaBot Mark II and Kuratas are packing enough sophisticated weaponry to make them intimidating in their own right.

According to the MegaBots' website, their latest model can fire "cannonball-sized paintballs" at over 120 mph. Suidobashi's video tutorial of Kuratas says users can operate 6000 round-per-minute BB-Gatling guns with the help of a computer interface that locks on to its target. The guns are activated when the user smiles.

Projectile weapons aren't going to be very relevant in 2016, however, thanks to Suidobashi's condition that the company will only accept America's challenge so long as they stick to melee.

"I'll fight. Absolutely," Kurata said. "But you know, we really need melee combat. If we're going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it."

Fearless words from an expert who's confident in his machine's capabilities, but this one stipulation (if upheld) could make or break the battle.

By removing mid- and long-range fighting from the equation, Kuratas must now face an opponent that outsizes it by two feet and nearly 3000 pounds in a contest that will likely come down to brute strength.

Speed and maneuverability are the Kuratas' strong points. Unlike the MegaBot, which lumbers extremely slowly on tank tracks, Japan's robot glides on four elevating wheels at a top speed of just over 6 mph although the superior agility makes it vulnerable to being knocked over if hit from the right angle.

I couldn't find any footage of the Megabot moving around while at full height (possibly because it's not designed to do so), and when it switches to seated height to turn or adjust its position, it looks more than sturdy enough to repel a shorter mech like the Kuratas.

While the arms don't seem to be as responsive as Kuratas, the U.S. champion can still ram its opponent head-on with enough force to enter a building Kool-Aid man style. Whether Suidobashi can compensate will depend on what they attach to Kuratas' frame to fight back with (my fingers are crossed for some kind of laser-sword).

Speculation aside, this is all operating under the assumption that fickle hardware will operate perfectly on the chosen day. One side's programming could easily claim victory without ever throwing a punch (let's hope they don't make this a pay-per-view event).

Even so, I'm still excited not only for this competition but what it represents in terms of future implications. Once we're done enacting our childhood fantasies of fighting five-ton death machines, there's a million practical applications to explore.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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