Not long ago, there was only one massive, human-controlled robotic Mecha suit in the world. It was in Japan. Life was tedious. Then, an American company, MegaBots, built one of their own, and challenged the Japanese robot, Kuratas, to a duel. They accepted, and life is much less tedious. Now the Americans need to get to work.

See, the one stipulation demanded by the Japanese team was that the fight would not be fought with projectile weapons, but would rather be a mechanical-robohand-to-robohand mélee. As Suidobashi Heavy Industries, Kuratas’ developers, told the team in their video:

“If we’re going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap, and knock them down to do it.”

Here’s the problem: the MegaBot’s two-person suit was not built for close-range manipulator-to-manipulator combat — it was designed for longer-range paintball combat.

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Kuratas, however, was built for this sort of faster, closer fighting, which means the Americans have to get a lot of modifications and upgrades done before the fight next year.

To get this all done, they’ve got a plan, a bunch of good people, and a Kickstarter campaign. Here’s what they need and what they’re planning to do:

The MegaBots Kickstarter campaign aims to raise at least $500k for basic armor, speed and power upgrades to the Mk.II which will make America’s robot 5x faster, 5x more powerful, and ready to engage in melee combat. At $750k, the Mk.II will get an interchangeable weapon suite that will allow them to test which weapons combinations work best. At $1M, the Mk.II will get a balancing algorithm that keeps it balanced and steady while in melee combat. At $1.25M, the Mk.II will be significantly upgraded for pilot safety in consultation with NASA. At $1.5M, the Mk.II will get a Hollywood makeover from a visual effects firm that made robots for films like Star Wars, Terminator, and the Matrix.

So, yeah, at full funding, that’s $1.5 million they’re trying to get. It looks like they can get by with a third of that, but it’s worth noting they’re saving all the flashy aesthetic stuff we all want to see for the very end, which is probably smart.

They’ve lined up some good partnerships, like with Autodesk and Mythbusters’ Grant Imahara, Howe & Howe Technologies (fast tracked vehicle experts), and even NASA, who are evaluating MegaBot Mark II for possible implementation of NASA safety technologies.

Japan’s clearly the nation to beat when it comes to giant mecha-suit robots beating the 20W-50 snot out of one another, and it looks like America’s MegaBot will need pretty significant help to win this. But this is what we Americans do best, right? Massive technological projects that may be considered technically useless if you’re, you know, dead inside, but are in proper perspective fucking fantastic.

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Plus, if you pledge $5000 or more, you get to climb in the MegaBot Mark II and punch the crap out of a Prius suspended from a crane. For many of you, that may be worth taking out a loan for right there.

There’s three big things that are hoped to come of all this. First, of course, is the giant mecha battle that’s all of our right to see as human beings. Next, it’s hoped this fight will open up the possibility of Mecha-battles becoming a regular and known sport, with many teams and arenas and fights and shit-talking and all that; and third, it’s very likely what gets learned here will advance the state of the art of robotic technology, much in the same way the crucible of auto racing develops and matures technologies that find their way into our daily cars.

This would be a fascinating thing to see actually happen. Once we know where and when it is, we’ll try to be there to cover it.

Also, hot damn.


Contact the author at jason@jalopnik.com.

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