On June 30th, 2015, American Robotics company Megabots, Inc. challenged Japanese rivals at Suidobashi Heavy Industries to a giant robot battle. Five days later, Japan formally accepted the challenge, under one condition—the American Mk. II would fight Japan’s Kuratas in a full-contact, hand-to-hand melee match. In Japan’s acceptance video, Suidobashi’s founder, CEO, and creator Kogoro Kurata said, “I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it."
As it stands now, the Mk. II is nowhere near ready for fisticuffs: when it was first introduced to the world in May, the robot’s main focus was on firepower. Both arms were equipped with heavy duty paintball launchers, as it was originally intended for long range paintball combat. Thus, the team over at Megabots Inc. has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise half a million dollars to to give their mecha an upgrade for close combat. In their crowdfunding video, the team explains how the current Mk. II model is top-heavy, slow, and unequipped to fight with its hands. With this money, the team plans to make major upgrades to the armor, power, speed, and weapon systems of their champion bot.
With 29 days left, the campaign has laid out a roster of supporters and contributors, robotics experts and software engineers who will be providing the robot with all the guidance and equipment it'll need for the Mk. II to come out of this fight victorious. The final renderings of the fully upgraded Mk. II are set to look something like this:
The campaign's extended goal, however, stretches to $1.5M: $750k would allow for an interchangeable weapons suite. At $1M, a balancing algorithm could keep it steady and standing during combat. At $1.25M, a consultation with NASA would significantly upgrade safety nets within piloting facilities. If and MegaBots reaches its final goal, the Mk. II will receive a full paint job touch up from a visual effects firm that's worked on movies including Terminator, The Matrix, and the Star Wars franchise.
“This Kickstarter campaign is historic because it's the first time a new sport will be launched with the power of the crowd,” says MegaBots Co-Founder Brinkley Warren. “People love giant robots!” And it's true—in just a year, some of our greatest sci-fi fantasies have become a reality (see the absurd Real Steel to know what we're talking about). The contributors and organizers of this event are “taking all of the cutting-edge robotics research that’s been happening behind closed doors, and busting it through the wall in the most epic entertainment phenomenon of our generation,” according Megabots cofounder Matt Oehrlein. It's bringing tech to the front of our cultural newsfeeds, making the world of robotics accessible to a much wider demographic. Plus, c'mon—giant battling robots sound sweet in any language.
In July, the MegaBot Mk. II became the first functional “Mech” to be exhibited in the United States, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View California. MegaBots was invited to speak at Singularity University about state-of-the-art robotics, and how the company is pushing the envelope when it comes to funding R&D. In the image above, the CEO of Singularity University (Rob Nail) gives an honorary degree to the Mk. II for its contributions to modern robotics.
Click here to help the Mk. II get its upgrade.