by Grady Noll
| February 23, 2018
The age of giant, fighting robots is here. At least, that was the premise for the Giant Robot Duel between MegaBots, Inc. (Team USA) and Suidobashi Heavy Industry (Team Japan), which took place in Japan and started streaming online in October 2017. The long-awaited contest ended in a display reminiscent of BattleBots with fireworks, sparks and chainsaws galore. Unfortunately, the duel’s reception was mixed, with many viewers left disappointed and even bored due to the robots’ limitations. Though appearing humanoid, MegaBots’ Eagle Prime and Suidobashi’s Kuratas both required tracks or wheels to maneuver and didn’t show the agility or dexterity new viewers were hoping for. For those unfamiliar with the state of giant robots and modern robot duels, let’s break down and conceptualize some of the concerns of disappointed viewers.
To understand the aim of the Giant Robot Duel, we should discuss the origins and motivations behind the robots’ development. Watching the duel’s online stream, it was apparent that the common drives behind the robots’ creators was lifetime aspiration and a simple desire to have fun with robots. Kogoru Kurata, the designer and blacksmith of Kuratas, said he made his design a reality mostly because he was tired of waiting for others to make something he idolized as a child. But the MegaBots team had a different goal in mind – they went into the competition hoping to inspire a giant robot sports league and bring giant robots into the mainstream. This, of course, is easier said than done.
Because the industry is new and the duel didn’t serve military interests, the companies made their robots from the ground up without financial security supplied by a government entity. Regardless, MegaBots did an impressive job securing funds on their own. They received a substantial amount of funding through a KickStarter campaign and recently stated that Eagle Prime, their 24,000 pound behemoth, cost them $2.5 million USD to manufacture.1 The 9,000 to 10,000 pound Kuratas reportedly sells for around $1.35 million USD.2 If we assume a 30% oversight cost and profit addition to the Kuratas selling price, that would indicate that each costs $1 million to manufacture.
Based on the cost references, the cost per pound for both robots is around $100. For comparison purposes, know that this is just a fraction of what military vehicles such as Humvees and M1 Abrams MBTs cost until they are produced by the same makers thousands of times. MegaBots and Suidobashi Heavy Industry aimed to make giant humanoid robots with relatively little resources and no financial backing from a government body or massive investor. Their ambition has to be commended.
The Giant Robot Duel has garnered the attention of other engineers from around the world who want to join in on the fun. Chinese robotics company Greatmetal has recently produced a robot they call “Monkey King,” a 9,000 pound representation of Sun Wukong. The Chinese and Americans are planning another robot battle in the near future, so we may very well see the Giant Robot Dueling circuit MegaBots was hoping for.
Use in the Military
PRICE Systems works primarily in the aerospace and defense industry, so why would we take interest in researching and talking about giant robots? Surprisingly, they relate to our industry more than you’d think. In fact, after creating estimates for the robots in the TruePlanning 2016® software, one of our solutions architects came to my desk asking how I modeled them. Believe it or not, the files had piqued the interest of a PRICE customer who was toying with the idea of making a giant militarized robot. How can these machines serve military purposes and are they practical in action? Read our next blog to join in the discussion on giant robots in the military.
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1. GIANT ROBOT DUEL is real: see USA’s Eagle Prime bot roll out, SlashGear
2. Kuratas, the 13-foot mech: unleashes your inner Ripley, costs $1.35 million (video), Engadget