Think giant robots fighting each other is the work of science fiction? Think again.
MegaBots, a company that transpired from brain to robotic braun in 2014 is now the dominant “player” in the robot-combat space. The company sports an international league where multi-ton, two-story mechanized robots actual fight each other. Intrigued, Grit Daily spoke with MegaBots cofounder and CEO, Matt Oehrlein to better inspect what kind of damage these ‘bots can do and what robot duels you can expect to see, next.
Grit Daily: For the uninitiated, what does MegaBots actually do?
Matt Oehrlein: MegaBots is bringing science-fiction fantasies to life by creating an international sports league of 15-ton, 1,000-horsepower, two-story-tall piloted humanoid robots that battle in Olympic-sized stadiums around the world. MegaBots burst onto the global stage by challenging Japan to a giant robot duel, having them accept the challenge, then running a $550,000 Kickstarter campaign so Americans can support their country’s team. MegaBots viral videos have garnered over 30 million views. The highly-anticipated duel with Japan has been watched by millions and was the largest non-gaming event on twitch.tv of 2017.
As we build towards this end goal, the robots currently make appearances at trade shows, music festivals, and comic cons. They can also be booked for private events and individual piloting experiences as well.
GD: What’s behind the name?
MO: “Mega” meaning big and “Bots” meaning robots — MegaBots. We wanted to keep the name simple and obvious! Plus, it feels good rolling off the tongue.
GD: How are competitions organized?
MO: As potential competitors appear, we organize them one-off with existing robots. So far, no one has built a robot for the sole purposes of fighting MegaBots. Generally, our opponents are existing robots that have the potential to compete once upgraded. This sports league is still in its infancy, and giant robots haven’t converged to a standardized weight and power class yet, so we have to be flexible with each fight. As we have more competitions, we’ll hone in on a rule set that makes sense.
Want to fight us? Make a compelling challenge video and post it to YouTube. If you get enough support, we’ll make it happen.
GD: Is this the future of military? How concerned should civilians be?
MO: Civilians should not be concerned.
There will definitely be some applicable technology that can trickle down into military, construction, mining, and other heavy equipment industries, but generally, one would want their armored ground vehicles to be wide and low to the ground. It would be hard to imagine someone saying “Let’s make this tank taller so it’s easier to hit with an RPG, top heavy, have more moving parts, be slower, and carry less payload!” Our robots are built to be entertaining, not necessarily deadly.
GD: What’s one conventional wisdom about robot fights that’s just plain wrong?
MO: Almost everything we know about robot fights is from movies and video games where the robots don’t have to obey the laws of physics. They jump super high, crash through walls, and throw vehicles into buildings. It will be a little while before we have sufficient power density to do things like that, but watching the technological progress we make will be more than half the fun.
Another hurdle we’re working to overcome is building in enough redundancy in the robots to allow them to keep working even when damaged. In movies, you’ll see a robot get damaged and wires will be hanging out and sparking all over the place. Sometimes the robot will kind of limp along. In most cases, a severed wire would cause today’s robotic systems to just shut down. It’s pretty rare that anyone is building redundancy in their prototype robotic systems to allow their robots to fail gracefully and maintain some limited functionality.
It’s common now in automotive and aerospace industries — you can lose an O2 or pressure sensor on your car and it will still work with some performance degradation, but MegaBots haven’t been around long enough for these recovery systems to be implemented.
GD: What is the difference between “taking a ride” in one of the MegaBots versus “piloting” one?
MO: To support the creation of the next great sports league, we currently have a couple of different experiences available on our website. A “Crush It!” experience where you get inside the robot and take control of the right arm of the robot while the rest of the robot remains stationary. and a “Take a ride” where we actually bring the robot outside, and you get to pilot the robot from the gunner’s seat.
A driver will be navigating for you, but you’ll be able to do control the weapons. For an additional fee, you can bring your own co-pilot to be your driver. Both the “Crush it!” and “Take a ride” experience involve piloting the robot, but the “Crush It!” is a more limited experience.
For more robot coverage, check out Grit Daily’s piece on ZoraBots.
Jordan French is the Executive Editor of Grit Daily. An award-winning journalist, he is on the editorial staff at TheStreet.com and a Fast 50 and Inc. 500-ranked entrepreneur.
He is the founder of Notability Partners and the co-founder of BNB Shield, Lisbon Hill Farms, Status Labs, BeeHex, BlockTelegraph, and Grit Daily. A biomedical engineer and intellectual-property attorney, French is the author of upcoming book, The Gritty Entrepreneur.