The U.S.A.’s Giant Robot Duel With Japan is Really Happening

Megabots, the makers of the 12,000 pound Mark III robot suit, are about to fulfill the dreams of anime nerds everywhere, and validate the entire premise of Kickstarter while they’re at it. It’s been almost two years since the indie robot construction company gathered the funding needed to challenge Japanese robotics startup Suidobashi to a giant robot duel — but in August, after several delays, the fight will finally happen.

The announcement comes from the official MegaBots YouTube page, which has become infamous for its over-the-top trailers and super-overt American imagery. MegaBots definitely knows how to build up its brand, and is hyping up the coming fight as a nationalist showdown between the excess of American engineering and more “traditional” Japanese mecha design. The American Mk III focuses on projectiles (“Really. Big. Guns.”) while Suidobashi refused to agree to the fight unless it could make use of its KURATAS robot’s capabilities in melee combat.

“The goal here is to create an entertaining and destructive fight,” Megabots co-founder Matt Oehrlein wrote in an email to Inverse. He made it clear that the giant robot showdown is as much about entertainment as competition. “If we find [the fight] doesn’t produce spectacular results due to our robot failing too quickly, we’d be okay with resetting and having another go! Can’t speak for Suidobashi, however.”

Here’s how MegaBots releases a scheduling update.

As it’s the first-ever robot duel, Oehrlein says the whole thing will be a fairly open-ended affair, and neither team really knows how well its robot will perform. The MegaBots robot was designed to shoot “paint cannonballs,” though the fight does not seem to include any provision for covering your opponent in paint. “Right now the terms are pretty loose,” Oehrlein says. “If your robot stops working, you lose. If your robot falls over and can’t get back up, you lose.”

As to their chances, the guys at MegaBots are optimistic, but cautious. “It depends on what they bring to battle! If they haven’t modified their robot that much, we assume we will have the weight and height advantage over them, but it looks like that could also make [their robot] more stable and less top-heavy than our robot.”

The team had to go back to the drawing board when designing its mech to protect a pilot from actual combat. The famed Mark II simply wasn’t good enough: “In almost every test, our pilot either got seriously injured or died,” Oehrlein says (we’re assuming he’s joking). But the Mark III has shock absorption tech both in and outside the cockpit, and a super heavy duty roll cage, among other things.

On the Japanese side, Suidobashi has been far quieter than their brash challenger, and nobody quite knows what modifications they’re planning to bring to the table. Everyone seems to be particularly worried about some sort of chainsaw or other brutal melee weapon — though assuming nobody will be specifically trying to attack the cockpit to kill the pilot, bashing the enemy robot seems like it could have greater potential to cause damage than cutting or sawing.

“Insurance works just like any other high-octane sport or dangerous film set,” Oehrlein explained. “So far, no waivers have been needed on behalf of the pilots because (from the MegaBots side) it will be myself and Gui in the robot.”

Inverse will continue to post updates about the match, and the much cuter Robo-ONE competition, as they happen.

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