While some may be quick to dismiss the sport of sumo as a couple of fat fellas slapping each other about on a sandy floor, watch just a few bouts and you’ll soon come to appreciate the level of skill, strength, and agility that’s required to be a leading wrestler.
Likewise, robot sumo, which in recent years has become a popular pursuit for a dedicated group of Japanese computer geeks, may at first look like nothing more than bits of tech malfunctioning really badly. However, as with the human version, a closer look reveals that actually a good deal of talent is at work. (OK, perhaps not with all of them.)
To show the sport at its best, Canada-based YouTuber Robert McGregor has edited together multiple robot sumo clashes filmed at contests across Japan over the last few years.
As with regular sumo, a bout in the robotic version finishes when one of the machines succeeds in pushing the other out of the ring. Some of the robot challengers are autonomous, while others are controlled remotely by a team member.
As you’ll see, the speed at which these tiny vehicles move is astonishing — and no, the video hasn’t been sped up.
While most of the contraptions look fairly similar in design, with a ramp at the front and occasionally with attached flaps for sweeping the opponent out of the ring, the clever stuff happens with the software that drives the robots. As with regular sumo, the machines have to be able to move quickly and respond without hesitation to secure victory.
Be sure to check out the particularly amusing fight at 1:00, which ends with an all too easy victory for one of the robots. There’s also the briefest of bouts at 2:58 featuring an unusual yet highly effective design that somehow keeps within the rules, while the poor bot at 4:09 appears to spill its electronic guts into the ring before being unceremoniously shoved out of sight.
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