First we had marathon man. Now we have marathon machine. Osaka started the world's first Robot Marathon yesterday. Four robots will be competing in this historic race, and although they are only around a foot tall, they will be made to complete a full 26.2 mile marathon. One of them even comes with a helmet cam, so you can watch it run.
In Osaka's Asia-Pacific trade center, a nondescript business complex, a space has been made on the floor. Lines have been made in tape to delineate an oblong racetrack. The track is only around a hundred meters long, so its runners won't be seeing a lot of new sights. Instead they will, with any luck, run around it 422 times to complete a standard marathon. The competitors are three humanoid, bipedal robots around a foot high, and one wheeled vehicle that hugs close to the ground. They will be 'running' for a total of around four days.
Each competitor is allowed to be controlled remotely by a human driver. The human drivers can be switched out throughout the marathon or there would be some very erratic robots by Sunday, when the first robot is expected to complete the four-day marathon. Although each of the robots will have a team on hand to repair it and change its batteries, if it flips or falls, it has to right itself. No one can physically give it a push up.
If you can't bear the thought of missing the excitement of watching four small robots slowly plod in a circle in the middle of the floor of a business complex, you're in luck. Robovie X, designed by race organizer Vstone Co., is streaming footage of the race from its helmet. Although the robot is no doubt a good little competitor, it does not make much of a cinematographer. The video is primarily dark, jerky footage of a line on the floor, punctuated by the 'thunk thunk' of the robot's feet. Still, it's worth checking out here.