Fistful of Bolts: Thoughts on the Robot Duel Challenge
Robot Duel Challenge: Suidobashi vs. MegaBots

So that Robot Duel Challenge thing is going viral as of this writing, and I was excited at first. But the cynicism instilled by disappointing video game releases and the realities of adulthood are holding back my childish glee from the potential of seeing two fighting robots duking it out in real life. I started thinking of how they could ever put such a thing together and what has to happen once they do start getting the robots fighting, and some of my friends agreed with my skepticism. Let’s talk a little bit about this; not too seriously but just some fun discussion on what can and cannot happen.

Megabots Inc. threw down the gauntlet in true American fashion—nice and obnoxious. Upon taking their passion to fruition with their giant robot, complete with big guns, they went on to challenge their Japanese counterparts, Suidobashi.


Kugoro Kurata, the CEO of Suidobashi Heavy Industries, accepted the challenge. He aims to defend the giant robot as an institution of Japanese culture. Their shtick is melee combat—bashing the opponent into scrap metal.


That seems to be a formula for the most awesome thing we may witness in a year’s time. However, I then had thoughts about the logistics and conditions for making this happen. There’s BattleBots, which came back to life just this year, that has robots at certain weight limits destroying each other in an arena with hazards and obstacles.

Here’s why I think the whole thing may turn out to be a complete dud. (If it doesn’t, it’s not like I’m betting money on it to fail. This is just a blog post, why are you being butthurt about it? lol)

NOTE: I am neither a robotics expert nor a hardcore fan of stuff like Gundam, Robotech, Transformers, Patlabor, Voltes V, Mechwarrior, and so on. All I’ve done is play a few games of Hawken and built a few Lego robots as a child, and that’s it. This is just me giving myself an excuse to write something that goes against popular opinion, so take the following with a grain of salt.

The Robot Duel Challenge is Too Hype to Be Real

It’s like Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, which was a dream match five years in the making and came out a snoozefest (even though it still broke pay-per-records). If an over-hyped fistfight between two human beings can turn out like that, what more between two huge pieces of mostly unproven technology and mechanical catastrophe-in-waiting?

It can be argued that we’re not in Real Steel or G Gundam; these things look more like lumbering buckets of bolts compared to what we’re expecting. How fast can they move and how can they get in range of each other while defending effectively? These are similar questions to hand-to-hand combat between humans, and the same can be said of robots designed to vaguely emulate the human form.

I’m sure they’re powerful, but can they move as freely as needed for a robot battle? We’re not talking about a demonstration here, but a straight-up battle between machines build thousands of miles away from each other. I really don’t see right now, but I do hope I’m wrong as a big fan of Front Mission 3.

Risks Involved as Deterrent

Mind you, they’re doing their best right now in figuring out how not to die while doing it, which means two things. On one hand, they intend to go as hard as they possibly can. But on the other hand, it means they don’t really want to die as well.

This is where we have to think about the parameters that will make such a thing possible. If there’s a tremendous amount of risk involved, health and safety people will try to put a stop to that, not to mention that there wouldn’t be any sponsors. Maybe they’re not looking for the latter at all, but they sure as hell should consider the former. Also, they can’t really do it with a live audience due to all the debris that may fly around unless there’s polycarbonate all around the fighting arena like in BattleBots. However, they better be extra thick if guns are involved.

That takes us to the subject of ranged combat. The American MegaBot is mostly about firepower, so what will it shoot? I don’t think anyone would ever allow real ammo, so they’ll most likely have something like either rubber bullets, paintball, or air cannons. The latter is still pretty dangerous (never underestimate the power of compressed air), so that’s not very likely either.

As for Suidobashi’s Kuratas that is intended for melee combat, what kind of melee combat are they talking about? Just little love taps to show off the tech or full-on power with pneumatic pistons with tremendous force? That’s basically metal-crushing destruction, and I’m not sure if anyone will actually agree to that.

If they do that for real, that would be awesome but that also means one dead pilot in a tin can. It’s fun watching that stuff on Gundam shows until it happens to you. The great risks involved keep it from being believable right now.

They’ll have to post something leading up to the proposed event like an update video where they show the venue, the fighting robots’ capabilities, the rules set for the duel, whoever is going to adjudicate the proceedings, and so on. But until then, it’s still kind of doubtful.

Conclusion

It has been great for both parties as a publicity stunt, with so many websites (including this winky dinky one here) and social media outlets having turned this story into a viral sensation. Of course, people want to see a giant robot fight, but can it even scratch the surface of their expectations? In this case, it’s all up to the people behind both MegaBots and Suidobashi to actually deliver.

Before we go, let’s just take a look at these two brilliant works of engineering. Even if most of this blog post casts doubts on the duel, it’s undeniable (at least to people who like mechanical stuff) that these things are indeed gorgeous. A lot of toil and sweat has been into them, and they’re nothing short of amazing.

Best of luck to both MegaBots and Suidobashi. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up being a whole load of scrap crumbling down unceremoniously. (Also, it’d be great if this and BattleBots get kids into robotics engineering.)

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