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This article was published on October 18, 2017

Giant Robot Duel was a great commercial for STEM

Giant Robot Duel was a great commercial for STEM
Tristan Greene
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Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

America and Japan squared off in robot combat last night over the course of two fights. In a first-of-its-kind event the Japanese robot, Kuratas, took on America’s Iron Glory in one bout, and Eagle Prime in another. This was an event for the ages, with more than a few surprises in each contest.

Before we get into the exciting details, it’s worth pausing to point out that last night’s fights obviously weren’t live. In fact, it may even be a stretch to call them “fights.” The exhibitions were more like quality assurance testers gone wild than an actual gladiator fight. This is a good thing: there were people inside those giant robots piloting them.

It’s easy to point out that the majority of the firepower was for show and the pilots engaged in theatrics more-so than combat. We aren’t talking “Mortal Kombat” for robots here.

Though this is what the first step to unpiloted “Real Steel” style combat looks like, so if you’re underwhelmed by last night’s event just keep in mind that we had to have a Model T before we could have a Tesla.

Before you read any further, be forewarned: here there be spoilers. If you’d like to watch the fights first, here’s the video:

Fight one: Kuratas VS Iron Glory

The beauty of the “sport” was on display as Kuratas leapt into action with the opening bell. Its pilot displayed his true character in a courageous offensive that can only be described as the perfect attack. Instead of dancing, spinning, or trying to be deceptive the giant Japanese robot just slowly rolled forward.

Iron Glory tried to fire a canonball at Kuratas, which struck me as odd because I’d been led to believe the fight would be melee only — by this video:

It didn’t matter because the munition broke apart inside of the canon, rendering it useless.

The pilot inside of Kuratas then sent the signal to his mecha which made it hold it’s left arm out in an apparent attempt at a slow-motion clothesline move. This caused equal parts laughter and excitement at my watching party. But then Kuratas straightened its arm out in front of it at the last moment, and shocked the world.

Kuratas connected with its first strike, a jab, and showed off its one-punch knockout power. Down went Iron Glory! Down went Iron Glory! The fight was over and Japan’s robot was victorious.

Nobody came for Iron Glory. There were no robot doctors, or crying computer-parents, just a solitary broken machine abandoned by its creators for the newer, sexier model: Eagle Prime.

Fight Two: Eagle Prime VS Kuratas

The first fight showed of the power of Japan’s robot’s 272 kg (600 lb) fist. This, the second fight, the Americans hoped, would be a slobber-knocker that’d take more than a few moments to sort out. Eagle Prime slowly moved forward as Kuratas, fresh off its earlier victory, prepared to take on the next comer.

Then things got a little weird.

Again the robots broke melee, Eagle Prime fired off some cannonballs which, surprisingly, did a fair amount of damage.

Kuratas then released its secret weapon: a drone. I was beyond shocked, and would have definitely spit out my drink had I been drinking. Eagle Prime was mostly unfazed, and went all King Kong on the poor little thing.

I’m still not sure what the drone was supposed to accomplish. Maybe it could have been equipped with an ink-bomb or something? Either way, it became the second robot to get knocked out when Eagle Prime swatted it and moved on.

Finally, the moment we’d really been waiting for arrived: the robots clashed. Eagle Prime’s pilot got clever and used his robot’s cannon-arm as a battering-ram to prod and bash at Kuratas. The Americans quickly gained the upper-hand as Eagle Prime bashed away at Kuratas – whose armor was taking a serious beating.

Then, for some unknown reason, things stopped. Modifications were made by both teams and then, there in all its amazing glory stood Eagle Prime rocking a motherfricking chainsword.

Kuratas responded to the chainsword by firing off some kind of pellets from a rapid-fire gun-for-an-arm appendage, which seemed a little dangerous for the pilot of Eagle Prime, yet yielded no effect.

But the chainsword proved to be the ultimate weapon when the robots again clashed.

Steel collided with steel and Eagle Prime grabbed and twisted with its massive claw-hand. Then the chainsword fired up and the real carnage began. The American robot sawed through metal and cable; Kuratas’ fingers went flying everywhere as they were severed.

Finally, in a moment of mercy, the fight was ended before Eagle Prime could rip the smaller, lighter, weaker opponent limb from limb.

This was David versus Goliath, but this time Goliath beat David’s tiny butt.

Kuratas got some good shots in before the fight was stopped though, and our hats are off to its bravery and prowess. But Eagle Prime is not a robot to be trifled with.

Sure the whole thing was more entertainment than combat, after all it’s the first event that had giant robots actually fighting. Both pilots hammed it up and, if I’m being honest, I didn’t like the dramatics from the announcers – which otherwise did a great job of making the event feel real. Mike Goldberg’s presence made it feel like a UFC contest, which was great for ambiance.

At the end of the event I wasn’t standing with my jaw agape and my mind blown. In fact I chuckled, turned off the TV, and went to bed.

But, last night I dreamed of giant robots fighting. They were fast and violent – and there were no squishy humans inside of them to slow things down. The Giant Robot Duel was a good start.

And more importantly it was a fun way to show off robotics and STEM for audiences of all ages.