In our first video report from the All Japan Robot Sumo Kanto Regional Finals competition (see links below) we covered some of the autonomous robot bouts. For this report we're focusing on the radio controlled class of competitors, and have included quite a few of the matches that took place at the event here in Chiba last Saturday.
One thing that we need to point out - there's a common misconception that "radio controlled" robots are basically similar to RC cars or airplanes. People assume that the operator is doing all the driving and there is no intelligence or decision making power on board the robot. That may have been true years ago when the competition was just starting, but it is certainly not the case today.
If you watch the video closely, especially during the slow motion segments, you'll get a feel for the how fast the action is, the strategy and moves involved, and the fact that no human being is fast enough to respond quickly enough during the intense parts of the match.
In talking to the officials and some of the teams, they consistently made the analogy to "Top Gun" where the fighter pilot flies the plane, gets it into position, locks on the target, then hits the "fire" button. After that the autonomous systems take control and close in to engage the target. Some of the top robots have as many as seven sensors on board and can track their opponent even when it's behind them. On board intelligence is really critical since both robots are moving at incredible speed and can instantly change direction. Your robot has to track, analyze, and project where the opponent 'will be' and attack there, not where happens to be at the moment.
Of course not all of the RC class robots are that sophisticated, but those that make it to the top ranks in the finals include substantial autonomous functionality. Instead of RC, a more accurate name for the classification might be 'hybrid'.
All Japan Robot Sumo - Autonomous - Kanto Regional Finals (Video - Part 1)
Robot American Football (Video)