In June 2016, on the soil of a yet to be decided neutral country, two giant warrior robots will engage in a titanic battle to uphold the honour of their homelands. It's America vs Japan, and it all promises to get a bit tasty. Confused, concerned, or simply wonder if you've been transported into the plot of an anime show? Fear not, it's very real but also looks like it will be a lot of fun.
Giant robot battle: What on Earth are you talking about?
On June 30 a video appeared on YouTube from American company Megabots, which specialises in building giant robots. In this video the two founders, resplendent in capes made from the American flag, announced the completion of the Megabot Mark Two, calling it 'America's first, fully functional, giant piloted robot'. There then followed video footage of the Mark Two plastering cars and walls with paint from its two huge guns. It was a gloriously over the top, tongue in cheek, display of Pacific Rim meets Scrapheap Challenge. But what followed next would cause a storm on the Internet, and set many a geek's heart racing.
While the Mark Two may be America's first giant piloted robot, it isn't the world's. That title belongs to the Kuratas, built in Japan by Suidobashi Heavy Industries. So in the long tradition of international relations, Megabots issued a challenge to the Kuratas crew, saying that it wanted to put the two behemoths to the test in the arena of conflict. That's right. International Robot Wars!
It wasn't long before the Japanese released their own video response, which agreed to the duel but upped the ante significantly. Kogoro Kurata, CEO of Suidobashi Heavy Industries, said 'Yeah, I'll fight. Absolutely. 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.'
So now the two teams are taking a year to prepare their battle bots for the upcoming test of brawn and electronic brains.
Giant Robot Battle: Is this going to turn nasty?
While the rhetoric has its macho chest puffed out, in reality the two teams have used plenty of humour and mutual respect in their communications. These aren't military bodies posturing for world dominance, but instead robotics enthusiasts with means and a sense of showmanship. One of the driving forces behind the challenge is that Megabots sees this type of battle as a potential sport of the future, and one that could easily capture the imagination of a worldwide audience.
'We're not funding a single robot here,' states Megabot co-founder Gui Cavalcanti, 'we're funding an entirely new Mech sports league.'
This is a bigger possibility than it might sound, as so far both videos have received four million views in the couple of weeks that they've been live, and that's before a metallic punch has been thrown. The stakes are high though, as the fight will have to be an exciting tussle to have any hope of living up to the hype that has surrounded the idea online. But if the two companies can capture the imagination of a fanbase, then these battles could quickly become a fixture on mainstream entertainment channels, and with it create a whole new industry.
Giant Robot Battle: So, who's going to win?
Like any great fight, this one is going to be difficult to call. The Megabot Mark Two is described by its inventors as '12,000lbs of gasoline powered fury...and can fire 3lb paint cannonballs at speeds of over 100 miles per hour.' It houses a crew of two and moves around on a couple of huge caterpillar tracks.
In contrast the Kuratas in lighter at 9,000lbs, has a single pilot who benefits from a full heads up display and a fancy targeting system for the twin gatling guns. Movement comes from four sets of wheels, but perhaps the biggest advantage at the moment is its two long arms with gripping hands at the end, something that could prove invaluable in the melee fight against the hands-free Megabot Mark Two.
Of course, we expect plenty of adjustments to be made in the months leading up to the combat, as well as more videos charting the progress, all of which we'll report here. It might have started out as something of a joke, but if the two companies can get this right then they may be onto something bigger than a pair of giant robots.