Megabots: Paintball with giant robots

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The Mark I MegaBot prototype

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Who hasn't looked at a sporting event and thought that it would be better if it involved giant robots wailing on each other? That seems to be the thinking of the people behind the MegaBots Kickstarter campaign, who are raising money to build giant humanoid robots with human drivers to take on each other in paintball arena games.

A MegaBot is the sort of robot that stands out in a crowd. Run by a driver-and-gunner team, the 15-ft (4.5-m) tall walking robot weighs 15,000 lb (6,800 kg) and has modular arms tipped with pneumatic guns firing 3-lb (1.3-kg) paint MegaBalls at 120 mph (193 km/h). According to the makers, it’s clad in customizable breakaway armor plating that flies off when it takes a hit while, like a videogame, a computer keeps track of "damage" and makes the robot eject limbs, limp, make noise, and jam its weapons as the hits mount.

This giant machine is the center of a Kickstarter campaign by "20 engineers, scientists, designers, artists, fabricators, and producers" to raise US$1.8 million to construct two MegaBots. The team is currently working on the prototypes and final design and has constructed a prototype upper body and arm, as well as a prototype gun emplacement and two weapon system as technology demonstrators. According to the team, this involves developing battery-powered miniature electro-hydraulic power plants, giant paintball ammunition, bespoke air cannons, and walking algorithms to allow the two-legged machines to negotiate an obstacle course.

The whole point of this isn't just to have a digital game character come to life, but to form the basis for a new sport. The MegaBots organizers envision a new sports league with MegaBots facing off against one another in full-blown giant robot tournaments with the human-piloted machines fighting against other MegaBots, vehicles, obstacles, and other adversaries.

The somewhat ambitious people behind MegaBots say that the first tournament will take place in May of 2016 in the continental United States. Beyond that, details are a bit sketchy. If more money is available, more robots would be built for more complex tournaments, such as team death matches and king of the hill.

The MegaBots team has even pledged to build and sell a custom robot for US$999,999.99, with a choice of colors, cupholders, heated seats, and residential delivery in the US (except for Hawaii or Alaska).

The Kickstarter runs through November 28 and, if all goes to plan, shipping of pledge rewards is set to start in February 2015.

The video below shows a MegaBot prototype versus a junk car.

View gallery - 7 images

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