Engineering

This Is Not A Drill: Giant Robot Fighting Is Real

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Sometimes we like to circle around a joke for a while as we introduce our hard-hitting articles, but this time, the subject is just too serious to make light of. In September, 2017, MegaBot's Eagle Prime and Suidobashi Heavy Industry's Kuratas will face off in the world's first-ever giant robot battle. And they're not the only ones hungry to get into the mechanized ring.

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Mark II model

A Fight For Supremacy

The story starts a few years ago, when Japanese artist Kogoro Kurata got sick of waiting for the giant robots he grew up loving to become a reality. "Eventually, I thought, 'I can't wait anymore,' and set out to make one myself," he told The Verge in 2012. So he founded Suidobashi Heavy Industry (aka SHI), and Kuratas, the world's first giant robot built for battle, was born.

The first version of Kuratas measured 4 meters (13 feet) tall, and weighed in a 3,629 kilograms (4 tons), and its design has only been improved since then. SHI is notably secret about its new developments, but it has listed among its armaments a BB gatling gun that fires 6,000 rounds per minute, a human-like hand, and a "pile bunker" — a single-shot armor-piercing spike that's become a fixture of fighting-robot anime shows.

"Suidobashi, we have a giant robot, you have a giant robot. You know what needs to happen." That's how Megabot co-founder Matt Oehrlein threw down the gauntlet in 2015 as he showed off his company's Mark II model. Mark II has since been upgraded to Mark III (or more awesomely, Eagle Prime) and been equipped with new air cannons, a grappling hand, and paintball guns that can fire up to 100 miles per hour. A star-spangled paint job is just icing on the cake. But Kurata isn't impressed. "Just building something huge and sticking guns on it, it's super American... We can't let another country win this. Giant robots are Japanese culture." Challenge accepted.

But as it turns out, the real threat is logistics. The match was originally supposed to go down in 2016, and was eventually pushed back to August, 2017. Now, it's been scheduled in a secret location in September. What's the holdup? It's been difficult to find a venue that's willing and able to contain the carnage. For reasons you can probably guess, fans of either robot won't be able to view it from the arena itself, but they will be able to stream the fight from both Megabots' and Suidobashi's websites.

Eagle Prime

A Dark Horse Contender

There's one more player on this stage, though it won't likely be entering the ring anytime soon. The Monkey King from the Chinese company GREATMETAL that sets itself apart with two combat modes: a simian, knuckle-walking gait for extra stability, and a bipedal stance for more aggressive attacks. It also bears a massive melee weapon — a heavy staff that fits into a sheath on its back. While it's still in its developmental stages, The Monkey King is perhaps the closest to the classic Voltron-esque design most familiar to fictional robot fans.

One thing that links all three of these challengers is the fact that the robots aren't the only ones putting themselves in danger. This isn't like BattleBots, and not just because they outweigh those fighters by up to six tons. Each of these robots actually requires a pilot, and in the case of Eagle Prime, a "Pacific Rim"-style duo. No matter how great the risk to the pilots, though, there's no avoiding the fact that whoever loses the match will also be losing millions of dollars and several years of work.

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