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Transformers, eat your heart out: giant fighting robots are now real

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 8 July 2015, 8:26 IST

If there's one thing the Hugh Jackman-starrer Real Steel taught us, it's that people will pay to watch robots slug it out. So imagine how much better it would be if you took away the terrible acting and miserable plotline. Well, we're going to find out exactly how much better. Soon. And it's going to be awesome. Not awesome the way your ham-and-bacon sandwich for breakfast was awesome either, but truly, mind-blowingly awesome.

America has issued a robot duel challenge to Japan. And it's been accepted.

Robots aren't anything new, but outside of sci-fi you've probably never seen anything like this.

These aren't your awww-that's-cute robots like Honda's Asimo. Think big. Now think bigger. Like Michael Bay bigger. Now add weapons. Chances are your imagination still didn't do justice to the epic-ness you're about to see.

Say hello to America's Megabot Mark II and Japan's Kuratas. Actually, don't. Just in case you manage to upset them with your insolence.

The robot battle saga began earlier this month with Megabots - a US robotics company straight out of a sci-fi nerd's wet dream. Megabots just completed the Megabot Mark II - "America's first fully-functional giant piloted robot". And even as it was birthed, probably in a furnace of hellfire and brimstone, its creators were looking for things to destroy. Because why else would you build a gigantic mechanised war-beast with guns that shoot 3-pound paintballs at 100 mph?

I'm not just speculating either. Megabots has possibly the coolest corporate tagline in the world - "The future of sports - giant fighting robots". I'm assuming it was their investment pitch too (I'm already sold).

So what transpired next was only natural. In lieu of sparring partners in the US (Arnie was busy promoting Terminator: Genisys), they settled on one in Japan. And declared war:

Filled with American flags, patriotic music and shots of cars being wrecked by the Mark II, one wouldn't expect anyone to take them seriously. But when you build a 12,000-pound behemoth that belongs in a heavy metal video, you've earned the right to be taken seriously. Their intended victims think so too.

If the Mark II is America's first giant piloted robot, Suidobashi Heavy Industries' Kuratas is the world's first. Unveiled as early as 2012, the Kuratas is a pilotable 9,900-pound leviathan with arm mounted mini-guns, missile launchers and the works.

Why else would you build a gigantic mechanised war-beast with guns that shoot 3-pound paintballs at 100 mph?

Unlike the Mark II though, Suidobashi terms the Kuratas an 'art piece' and, if you have $1.5 million lying around, you could order one for yourself. But thanks to Megabots' appetite for destruction, that's all about to change. On 5 July 2015, Suidobashi's CEO (and the creator of Kuratas) released his response to Megabots' challenge:

In the off-hand and nonchalant manner only a Japanese person can manage when talking about two hulking combat-ready beasts, he accepted Megabots' challenge.

But with a rider. Hand-to-hand combat. A large part of my soul died with that stipulation. The rest of me survives safe in the knowledge that I will one day get to see a robot punch another robot. In the face. (That, after all, is the dream. If Martin Luther King had a more vivid imagination, his speech would've revolved solely around this.)

Sadly, Megabots' challenge isn't an immediate one. It's for next year. The upside though is that both teams have a whole year to prepare and modify their robots, so things can only get better. With American excess and Japanese creativity, that sounds like a recipe for success. Now to sit back and wait for the actual date to be announced. Hopefully Skynet doesn't become active first.

First published: 7 July 2015, 13:20 IST