Sure, Robot Wars is fun, but it’s got nothing on the real life, fighting, robot mechas that look as if they came straight out of Avatar, Pacific Rim, or the Anime series “Gundam Wing”. It all started when the MegaBot developers raised $554,000 in funding from their Kickstarter campaign.
“real life fighting mechas that look as if they came straight out of Avatar, Pacific Rim, or the Anime series ‘Gundam Wing’.”
What’s the point of building these human-piloted mechas if not to spar with them? There are two teams- one in the United States and one in Japan. They’ve been independently building their anime-style robots for years. These metal beasts are fully loaded with weapons and are even equipped with head displays.
America’s Megabots challenged Japan’s Suidobashi in July of 2015 via video, setting off a string of interactions:
and Kuratas’ response:
Japan’s mecha is called Kuratas. It was initially developed by Suidobashi Heavy Industry as an art project. Kuratas towers 12 feet and weighs 4 tons. Japan’s Kuratas mecha seats and individual pilot. Even if the pilot isn’t seated, however, the mecha can still be remotely controlled with a smartphone! It travels on wheels at a top speed of 6 MPPH.
Kuratas has a twin-Gatling-gun arm which, once locked onto its target, fires 6,000 BBs per minute. This weapon has an automated aiming system which only fires when the pilot is smiling! Suidobashi Heavy Industry calls it a “smile shot.” So be careful if you ever get the chance to pilot Kuratas, the pilot manual suggests you don’t smile too often if you don’t want your mecha to go on a shooting spree.
“Even if the pilot isn’t seated the mecha can still be remotely controlled with a smartphone!”
Another impressive weapon on the Kuratas is the LOHAS water-bottle launcher. Fortunately for Team USA, the LOHAS launcher lacks the ability to rotate or pivot and is highly inaccurate. It also leaves its user pretty wet. Kuratas has two humanoid-like hands, one which is completely functional, the other flashes a series of bright colors they call, surprisingly, “the Rainbow.”
The USA’s mecha was first developed in Boston Massachusetts. Its a bit larger and heavier, weighing in at 6 tons and standing at 15 feet. All that size and weight costs it significant marks in speeds, because even though it utilizes industrial treads, it has no suspension and it can only muster up 2.5 mph. The USA’s team calls their mecha the MegaBot Mk. II.
This mecha needs two team members to operate. One member works as the pilot for the mecha and the other runs the weaponry. Many of the MegaBot Mk. II weapon systems are still prototypes, in particular, they’re developing a special paint ball missile launcher. It fires 130 MPH, 3-pound cannonballs made out of paint. Its intended to obscure the vision of the opposing mecha and suggest possible damage.
“Megabot is a bit larger and heavier, weighing in at 6 tons and standing 15 feet.”
For all the talk of long range weapons though, when it comes time for the two mechas to meet, they wont be using them. It’s got to be hand to hand combat.
Megabot is receive a significant amount of help to upgrade it’s controls and improve its speed. They’ve obtained over $2 million in additional funding for improvements and they’ve partnered with a couple unique industries. Once of those companies is IHMC Robotics, which has designed the MegaBot’s upcoming balance control upgrades.
Along with a rebuild of the hydraulics system, this will aid Megabot’s ability to stay on its feet when receiving and delivering impact. In addition to these upgrades, Howe & Howe Technologies from Maine has also designed a complex dogleg torsion bar suspension to increase speed and stability over rugged terrain.
It’s been over a year since the challenges were announced on Youtube, but both Megabot and Kuratas have a good number of upgrades and developments to be completed before they’re battle ready. Along with these improvements, they have to figure out how to get their giant fighting machines through customs.