The 21st Annual All Japan Robot Sumo competition was held here last weekend, and as usual, it was totally over the top. The robot sumo matches are lightening fast, peppered with crashes, bangs, totally unexpected moves, and sometimes even unintended fires (see video below).
This years competition, staged at the Ryogoku Kokugikan (the venue for the human Grand Sumo Tournaments) was no exception. The action was fast and furious, featuring competitors that earned the right to compete through a long series of regional competitions.
Robot sumo was originally created by the founder of Fuji Soft, Inc over 20 years ago out of his desire to motivate and inspire young students to study engineering, especially applied robotics. The sport, and the organization he assembled to nurture it, have grown and blossomed over the decades blessing Japanese industry with a steady stream of highly capable engineers, designers, and technicians.
One of the keys to the organization’s success has been it’s close involvement with regional technical high schools here. Teachers in the schools have adopted the competition as a center piece in their curriculum, field student teams in the annual events, and use it to attract promising new students.
Many of the student robot sumo competitors have gone on to key positions in the robotics industry. A good example is Eiichiro Morinaga who got his first taste of robotics with robot sumo as a student, then went on to become a champion micromouse competitor. If that wasn’t enough, he then created Metallic Fighter, one of the first ROBO-ONE humanoid robots, and at a very young age (relative to us) has become a legend in the field of Japanese robotics.
For more background on Japanese robot sumo, and some interviews with the officials here, check out: