Updated: July 9, 2015 4:32:04 am
Massive, menacing machines beating each other down is normally the stuff of nightmares — or Michael Bay movies. But just such a clash is in the offing, after an American robotics company, MegaBots, challenged Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry to a fight unto death for their mechas. MegaBots plans for this to be the first step in its plans for world domination via a futuristic robot fighting league — a plan that could hardly fail, because the two things people appear to love most are robots and a smackdown. What else could explain the stupendous worldwide success of the Transformers movies? Or, for that matter, explain how Real Steel (a boxing movie where human pugilists have been replaced by robots) was made in the first place.
Of course, the Japanese are no slouches at building robots and, in fact, are industry leaders. Robots occupy a prime place in Japanese culture, which regards them with benevolence, in sharp contrast to the anxieties over artificial intelligence, the Singularity and more immediately, job-obliviating mechanisation that animate American perspectives on robots. For instance, in 2011, after the tsunami devastated Japan, the government considered creating a robot-run super farm. When Koichi Wakata, the astronaut, made a trip to the International Space Station in 2013, he had a companion — the humanoid robot Kirobo. Japan has poured in millions of dollars to develop robots like Honda’s Asimo and Sony’s Aibo. It employs over a quarter of a million industrial robot workers — of the variety that recently “killed” a man at a Volkswagen plant in Germany — more than any other country. So the upstart MegaBot is very much the underdog.
More importantly though, could this bout for corporate robot supremacy show the way to a reality dreamt up by Robot Jox, a 1989 movie that envisioned a post-apocalyptic world where international territorial disputes were settled by human-controlled robots smashing each other to smithereens? At least until the kaiju attack.
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