Two proud countries, two extraordinary warriors…one title. Just like Rocky IV. Only instead of Sly and Dolph, substitute a 15-foot, 6-ton American robot going toe-to-toe with a 12.5-foot, 5-ton Japanese mecha. In a YouTube video worthy of Don King, the makers of MegaBot just challenged Japan’s Kuratas to combat—bot-to-bot.

How did we get here?

Last year, MegaBots launched a $1.8 million Kickstarter campaign. Their grand vision wasn’t building just a single giant robot. No, they wanted to found the world’s first oversized fighting robot tournament. The contestants? “15-foot-tall, 15,000-pound, walking humanoid combat robots with giant, modular pneumatic cannons for arms.”

Each robot would be piloted by a team, a driver and a gunner, and feature breakaway armor. Ammo? Three-pound, paint-filled cannonballs fired at 120 mph. The MegaBots team described the ensuing bedlam like this:

“As projectiles hit their targets, armor plates shatter and explode, and computers tally critical hits to the robot’s limbs and torso. As more and more hits are taken, robots start to limp, joints start to seize, weapons start to jam, and after enough damage, limbs are completely blown off. The last MegaBot standing wins!”

Though the Kickstarter went unfunded, the team was unfazed and finished their prototype robot, MegaBot Mk.II, with help from Autodesk. Lacking another suitably sized robot to pit it against, they lifted their gaze across the Pacific, to the home of another huge piloted bot.

We wrote about Kuratas a few years ago after its maker, Suidobashi, posted video footage of the robot online. The million-dollar machine is controlled by a pilot in its cockpit. It’s equipped with the LOHAS launcher that (rather erratically) shoots out full water bottles and twin Gatling guns that fire 6,000 BBs a minute. These can be triggered by a smile (dubbed simply: the “Smile Shot.”)

At this point, it should probably be noted that, although the MegaBots team was dreaming of “walking” robots, neither bot is capable of such a feat. Kuratas rolls on four wheeled legs. MegaBot has two legs with treads. (As this year’s Darpa Robotics Challenge showed, walking is still a huge challenge for human-sized robots, never mind giant robots like these.)

Suidobashi Kuratas robot.
Suidobashi Kuratas robot.

Kuratas and MegaBot are more about fun and imagination than practicality. As a video by Suidobashi warns: “Kuratas is an art piece. It is not a normal vehicle, so it doesn’t guarantee your safety and comfort. However, it does make your dream of becoming a robot pilot come true.”

So, if Suidobashi accepts the challenge—who wins this heavyweight battle?

MegaBot has the weight and height advantage (if such things matter in robot fighting). But Kuratas has been around longer. MegaBot’s paint-filled cannonballs look pretty fearsome. But Kuratas may have the sleeker, more advanced control interface. Perhaps the crucial design difference, however? MegaBot’s dual pilot cockpit allows the gunner to focus on his job—a Kuratas pilot must drive and fire at the same time. If the MegaBot team can work in concert, watch out. But if they get too out of sync, advantage Kuratas.

And there will be pre-battle modifications. Really, there’s only one way to settle it.

“We’re bringing video games and science fiction to life in the form of internally piloted giant fighting robots,” megabots cofounder, Gui Cavalcanti, told Engadget. “This is the kind of live entertainment we’ve all been promised for dozens of years, and it’s the kind of entertainment that’s finally possible with current robotics technology.”

Image Credit: MegaBots, Suidobashi

Jason is managing editor of Singularity Hub. He cut his teeth doing research and writing about finance and economics before moving on to science, technology, and the future. He is curious about pretty much everything, and sad he'll only ever know a tiny fraction of it all.