Painfully Slow Robots Run a Marathon in Japan [Video]

As a sporting spectacle, this is one event that is unlikely to set pulses racing. Which is just as well, because none of the runners lining up for the marathon in Japan this morning even has a pulse.

Five competing robots will need to run around the 100 metre course 422 times to complete the 26.2 mile marathon. The event is the world’s first robot marathon, which began in the western Japanese city of Osaka on Thursday.

Of the contestants, two of the robots owned by race organiser Vstone, got off to the best start. Vstone chief executive officer Yamato Nobuo was reasonably confident of victory and tentatively predicted his robots would finish the race on Saturday morning.

“At the latest they will finish on Sunday morning,” he conceded. Mr. Nobuo hopes that in the future the marathon will turn into an international competition similar in scale to the Robo Cup.

Japanese robot maker and event organiser Vstone says the event will demonstrate the machines’ durability and maneuverability. Vstone’s robots surged into an early lead, trailed by two entrants from Osaka University of Engineering who faltered in the early stages of the race.

While the robots, which are are controlled by humans, can be tweaked for repairs and their batteries swapped but have to get up on their own if they fall over.

Japan has an impressive record of marrying cutting-edge robot technology and athletic achievement. It hosted the first robot football World Cup in Nagoya in 1997, and again in 2005, in Osaka. Last year’s tournament in Singapore drew 500 teams from 40 countries. [via The Guardian (UK)]

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