As far as you can tell from watching too many episodes of BattleBots, the biggest drawback to fighting robots is the loser ends up with a heaping pile of scrap metal and frayed electronics. MekaMon does away with all of that cyber viscera. Instead, these real-life droids do battle on your living room floor, with the damage registered virtually on your smartphone. Twenty-first century problem solved, right?
MekaMon is the brainchild of the UK’s Reach Robotics. These off-the-shelf robot warriors are aimed at kids ages 8+, and thanks to a Pokemon-style augmented reality — they do battle both in your house and on your smartphone screen. The Meks stand 9.8-inches tall, are bantamweight-light at just over 2 pounds each, and walk/fight on 4 legs like a crab or spider. Depending how epic your battles are, they can drop the hammer on their opponents for over an hour on a single battery charge. Even better, they’re modular, so you can add smart weapons (avenger cannon, falcon rail gun) and shields (iron citadel, neutron shield) to increase their powers. Or even swap out their legs entirely for wheels or tracks. And any change you make to the physical robot is registered virtually when you fight. It’s really up to you and your 3rd-grade nemeses.
Then there’s the augmented reality part. You control Mek using a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone (and the free app) as a joystick. The phone’s camera tracks the physical robots in front of you while you do battle on the screen. Fire weapons, monitor strength, check your Instagrams — ha, you just lost! When you get hit by an opponent’s plasma gun, it registers in the game; projectiles don’t fly, broken parts do not start falling off the robot. You get the idea.
Wait, what if your kid is the only one in the neighborhood with a Mek? Who’s he gonna fight? Answer: virtual aliens in the MekaMon Universe. Fortunately, each robot comes with both single and multiplayer modes (as well as cooperative play) so solo warriors can train and battle any time on their own, just like a video game. They can even earn experience points and score better weapons along the way. That said, if you’d rather not take turns and/or spend energy trying to convince other dads to get in on the robot fighting action, they can be pre-ordered in a 2 pack. And no, it’s not cheap, but consider yourself an early adopter in a future that has robot bloodsports.