Fighting robots are back on the agenda – as the return of Robot Wars to the small screen proves – and Reach Robotics is leading the charge. The UK-based company is busy developing intelligent gaming robots called Mekamons, which combine traditional physical machines with augmented reality (AR). This means they’re able to fight battles in the real world while overlaid graphics enhance the action. You might see your Mekamon fire out a laser blast, for example – not literally, but in the interactive, virtual reality that you can view through a smartphone app.
The beauty of AR is that anything can be overlaid onto the physical robots, from new weaponry and explosive special effects as they take damage to create entirely new backdrops.
For example, your living room is no longer a sofa, coffee table and TV, but a burned-out city for your Mekamon to explore. There are currently two Mekamons in development, the tank-like Brute and the more nimble Berserker. Each bot has its own skill set, but they are also modular so you can 3D print new parts to upgrade your Mekamon in the real world, which in turn could add new elements to the AR gameplay.
However, it might be a while before you can get your hands on one of these fascinating AR robotic toys. While demoing prototypes at CES in Las Vegas, the team behind the Mekamons said they aim to launch a crowdfunding campaign around early September, with plans to ship the first fighting bots by Christmas.
A brief history of battle bots
Feb 1998 – Robot Wars – Activate!
The game show about homemade robots fighting to the death debuted on BBC 2, wowing up to 6 million viewers at its peak and airing for five years.
March 2006 – War machine
The US military-funded Boston Dynamics unveiled BigDog, a packhorse-like android designed to work in real-life robot wars.
Sept 2011 – Reel Steel
Huge Jackman reminded Robot Wars fans how epic machine-on-machine combat could be in this Oscar-nominated movie.
July 2015 – Grudge match
The American creators of a 15-feet-tall robot called MegaBot challenged a Japanese mech called Kuratas to a battle.
Jan 2016 – Robot Wars rebooted
The BBC announced it will return for a six-part series ‘later this year,’ duking it out in a purpose-built bulletproof arena in Glasgow.
July 2016 – Show down
After crowdfunding an improved MegaBot with steel-plated armour and a chainsaw arm, the US and Japanese robots will finally face-off this summer.