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These autonomous sumo wrestling bots are freakishly fast

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Seriously, watch the video

If you haven’t seen robot sumo wrestling before, then you’re in for a treat. Trust me. Most robot versions of human sports are underwhelming, but as this video compilation shows, the mechanical take on Japan’s national sport is very fast and very furious. And why? Because engineers aren’t trying to copy human performance. Instead, they concentrate on the qualities that robots excel at: namely lightning-fast decision-making and insane turns of speed.

The main thing to know about robot sumo wrestling is that once a match starts, humans are out of the loop. Each bot acts entirely autonomously based on certain pre-programmed behaviors, and although there are a few rules to be observed, the main restraints are simply on size and weight. Within these limits, bots can try a number of different tactics to try and knock their opponent out of the ring.

Most drive in different patterns, sometimes reacting to their opponent, sometimes not. The bot on the left, for example, is trying a common star pattern to out-flank its opponent, while the other robot is, uh, spinning round and round on the spot.

Scoops are standard equipment, and are used to try and lift your opponent off the ground, reducing their grip and making them easier to push around. Often, though, the bots move so fast that they simply shunt one another clear out the ring:

Other teams try to deploy wings, which are likely intended to confuse their opponent’s sensors, making them easy to out-maneuver:

And some bots simply know when to step out of the way:

According to this guide, there are a number of factors to consider when making a sumo bot. Grip is the most important quality, and good tires are a must. Making the robot dark or shiny also helps, as it confuses the opponent’s sensors. And responsive edge sensors (which are positioned on the underside of the bots and notice when it crosses from the dark central ring to the white, exterior border) are key to not driving off the edge by accident.

Just wait until they start making bigger bots.