Megabots Inc., an Oakland, California-based startup, has built a 15-foot mechanical gladiator called the Mark II and challenged a Japanese firm to an international battle for robot supremacy.
Tokyo-based Suidobashi Heavy Industries, maker of the 13-foot Kuratas, accepted the challenge, setting the stage for the first giant robot battle of its kind next year. The exact date and location are yet to be determined.
Win or lose, it’s all part of Megabots’ plan to make gladiator-style robot combat into big-time entertainment — a mix of Ultimate Fighting Championship and Formula One auto racing — while developing new industrial technologies and inspiring a new generation of engineers.
The Megabots founders envision a sports league where teams from around the world build huge humanoid robots that throw each other down in stadiums filled with screaming fans.
Megabots was launched in 2014 by Oehrlein, Gui Cavalcanti and Brinkley Warren, who grew up playing video games like MechWarrior and BattleTech, and wanted to fulfill their dreams of watching massive machines fight.
Inside a cavernous Oakland workshop, the Megabots founders built the Mark II — a 12,000-pound behemoth with tank treads, two-pilot cockpit and missile launcher that fires cannon ball-sized paintballs.
The Megabots robot isn’t quite ready to take on Kuratas, a more polished fighting machine with a big, agile hand that mimics the movements of the pilot’s hand.
That’s why Megabots launched an online Kickstarter campaign and raised more than $550,000 from robot fans to turn the Mark II into a real fighting machine — faster, tougher, more balanced and equipped with detachable weapons such as a giant chain saw or punching fist.