Robo Sumos Face Off: Japan v. Latvia
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Photo Credit: YouTube Screenshot - Latvian Robo Sumo Team

Latvia is the upstart of the robot sumo wrestling world, pushing Japan to defeat at last week’s sumo robot “Olympics”

If you thought last week was a slow news week, then you missed the dramatic upset in  Japan’s annual robotic sumo competition.

A heavy loss

The contest, in which handmade robots attempt to push each other out of a ring, was won by a robotics team from Latvia for the first time in the tournament’s 24-year history.

A team of Latvian students from Riga Technical University and University of Latvia beat out the Japanese incumbents in the “All Japan Robot-Sumo Tournament International 2014,” widely known as the “Olympics” of robot sumo.

The tournament was held in Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan arena, which ironically, is the hallowed venue of traditional Japanese sumo. Forty-eight robots from ten countries faced off. These countries included Brazil, U.S., France, Germany, Mexico, Poland, Romania Spain, Turkey, Austria and Colombia.

Smart and squat

In the autonomous robot event, robots that weigh no more than 3 kg and are no more than 20 cm deep or wide must push their opponents out of a 1.5 meter-wide ring. Their movements must be pre-programmed. Obviously, the heavier the robot, the greater its advantage in what is essentially a pushing contest. But as in traditional sumo, brain is a lot more important than brawn: A clever physical design and good algorithm are what differentiate the winners from the dumb hunks of metal. The robots are equipped with sensors to find their opponent and to know where the edge of the ring is. Many of the robots are square and squat, with a blade up front for pushing.

As with traditional sumo, robot sumo also has stringent rules and a code of ethics.

Watch some sumo robots in action here.

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Simona Weinglass

About Simona Weinglass


I’m an old-school journalist who recently decided to pivot into high-tech. I work in high-tech marketing as well as print and broadcast media covering politics, business culture and everything in between.

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