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Somerville-born fighting robot to battle Japanese machine

It’s been a dream since childhood for the founders of MegaBots Inc.: To watch two human-piloted robots go head-to-head in the arena, in a clash of metal monsters.

Now, that dream could soon become a reality.

Last week, the MegaBots team, which got its start at Somerville’s Artisan’s Asylum, posted an over-the-top video challenging a Japanese business that manufactures a roughly 8,000-pound robot to a fight.

On Sunday, that company, Suidobashi Heavy Industry , accepted the request, posting its own hype-drenched response.

“Yeah, I’ll fight. Absolutely,” said Kogoro Kurata, Suidobashi Heavy Industry’s CEO, in the video.


Giant robots are ingrained in Japanese culture, he said, declaring, “We can’t let another country win this.”

The brains behind MegaBots are planning to pit their updated Mark II mech, a six-ton, cannonball-firing machine that rolls around on tank treads, against Kurata’s Suidobashi Kuratas.

The Kuratas boasts a 13-foot frame with hydraulic arms, and has a slight advantage when it comes to agility, according to reports.

But the builders from MegaBots aren’t concerned about their opponent — they have some time to upgrade their own machine before the duel takes place.

“Right now, we are kind of working out how we want the fight to play out,” said Matt Oehrlein, one of the company’s co-founders. “They seem excited to do it, and obviously we are excited to do it.”

Earlier this year, MegaBots Inc. moved its headquarters to San Francisco from the space they were outgrowing near Somerville’s Union Square.

The move brought them nearer to software company Autodesk, which is helping them. It also gave them accesss to more resources to further their projects and allowed them to significantly upgrade the Mark II. But they still have a ways to go before they send it off to do battle.


“This whole thing is going to need to be a balance between entertainment and what’s actually feasibly possible,” said Oehrlein, referring to the pending duel. “A lot of details still need to be worked out, and that’s what we anticipated happening. That’s why we asked for it to happen at least one year from now.”

No venue has been picked to host the fight, but some terms for the robot brawl have been put on the table. Kurata and his team at Suidobashi Heavy Industry have specifically asked for a melee battle — a mano a mano fight that doesn’t strictly rely on long-distance weaponry like cannons, which are the staple of the Mark II right now.

“Come on guys, make it cooler,” Kurata said in his video this week.

MegaBots plans to. Oehrlein said the company is looking to increase the power of the robot’s hydraulic system so it can move faster, improve the armor so it can sustain blows from its competitor, and add some safety features for the pilots who will utlimately man the machine.

“It should be a pretty epic event,” he said.

Steve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.