Giant 'Battle Bot' Could Get Makeover Ahead of Epic Duel

megabots, mark II, mk. II
The MegaBot Mk. II debuted in May 2015 at Maker Faire San Mateo, where the robot destroyed a junk car with giant paintballs in front of packed audiences. The MegaBot was rated as the faire’s top attraction. (Image credit: S.N. Jacobson)

Finally, there's a crowdfunding campaign for people who want to watch giant robots fight to the death.

MegaBots Inc. — a Boston-based company that builds huge, human-operated, fighting robots — launched a Kickstarter campaign today (Aug. 19) to raise money to develop a huge, gun-toting robot, in preparation for an upcoming "duel" with a similar "battle bot" from Japan.

The campaign has already drawn in nearly $200,000 of the requested $500,000, and robot fans have until Sept. 18 to contribute funds. [See photos of MegaBots' massive "battle bot"]

In June, the MegaBots team took to YouTube to challenge its one and only competitor, Suidobashi Heavy Industry of Japan, to a robot duel. Suidobashi's founder, Kogoro Kurata, accepted the challenge a week later, but with one condition: He wanted the duel to be a "melee." In other words, the bots aren't just going to stand across a field from each other and shoot paintballs; they'll go to head-to-head, fist-to-fist, toe-to-toe and all that good stuff.

But why does MegaBots, the proud creator of a very large combat robot, need to raise money for this robot duel? Well, the company's robot, the Mark II (Mk. II), just isn't ready for the perils of hand-to-hand combat, the MegaBots team said in a statement.

The 15-foot-tall (4.6 meters) manually piloted Mk. II lumbers around and shoots supersize paintballs, but it has a hard time staying balanced, and it needs to be more powerful and quicker on its feet if it's going to win any fistfights.

"The upgraded Mk. II will be the definition of an American robot," Gui Cavalcanti, CEO and co-founder of MegaBots, said in the company's Kickstarter video. "She'll be five times faster and powerful, self-balancing and armored for hand-to-hand combat."

The first $500,000 raised through the Kickstarter campaign will go toward all of the improvements that Cavalcanti mentioned, but MegaBots doesn't intend to stop there. If the company can collect an additional $250,000, it will update Mk. II's weapons system, making the bot's arm guns more impressive (and more patriotic) with the addition of a boxing glove, a Statue of Liberty-esque torch and what appears to be a flamethrower.

You may think these upgrades would be enough for Mk. II to take out the competition — a 12-foot-tall (3.7 m), 9,000-lb. (4,000 kilograms), BB-gun-carrying robot named Kuratas. But why stop there? If MegaBots can raise $1 million, the company says it will enlist the services of IHMC Robotics (the organization that placed second in this year's DARPA Robotics Challenge) to build a custom balance systemfor Mk. II.

And if robot enthusiasts donate another $250,000 (bringing the total amount to $1.25 million), MegaBots will call NASA, company representatives said. Specifically, MegaBots will ask the space agency to design a pilot safety system for the Mk. II that will keep the person inside the machine safe throughout the melee. And one more thing: If the campaign raises $1.5 million, MegaBots plans to hire a Hollywood design firm to give the bot a makeover. Fonco Creative Services, the group behind the good-looking bots in films like "Star Wars" and "The Terminator," will transform Mk. II into a glamorous fighting machine.

"This Kickstarter campaign is historic because it's the first time a new sport will be launched with the power of the crowd," MegaBots co-founder Brinkley Warren said in a statement. "People love giant robots!"

But for now, robot enthusiasts everywhere will have to sit back and wait to see if their counterparts around the world love giant fighting robots enough to throw their hard-earned cash into the melee. More information, including how to donate money, can be found on MegaBots' Kickstarter page.

Follow Elizabeth Palermo @techEpalermo. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Elizabeth Peterson

Elizabeth is a former Live Science associate editor and current director of audience development at the Chamber of Commerce. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from George Washington University. Elizabeth has traveled throughout the Americas, studying political systems and indigenous cultures and teaching English to students of all ages.