Japanese robot trains for Ironman Triathlon

Posted by Mark Raby

It's one of the most grueling acts of human endurance, but can a robot handle it?

The Ironman Triathlon is held every year in Hawaii, consisting of physically taxing bouts of swimming, bicycling, and running a total of 230 kilometers. It's so incredible that the strongest competitors end up churning through the course nonstop for nearly 20 hours.

But there's a new entrant to the Ironman challenge this year who might not even break a sweat, though it may take a bit longer - a robot created by Japanese scientist Tomotaka Takahashi, for electronics giant Panasonic.

The robot, which looks like a cute green-and-white toy, has already proven its mettle. The little guy has managed to scale the walls of the Grand Canyon, and managed to drive around the Le Mans racetrack for a full uninterrupted 24 hours.

But Ironman will no doubt be its greatest test yet. "This is very tough even for a sportsman, but I think it is worth a challenge," said Takahashi in a Reuters interview.

The robot, named Evolta, is about 1/10 the size of an adult man, so it is certainly at a bit of a disadvantage. That's why he's being given a full seven days to complete the course.

"The robot will encounter a lot of hardships on its way, but I hope it will overcome them all and succeed in the end," Takahashi said.

There are a lot of challenges involved in getting a robot to not only engage in all the activities, but also endure the elements involved. "I had to think of the ways to make it water-proof and protect it from mold as much as possible," Takahashi noted.

Evolta will not participate alongside the human contestants. Rather, he will run the Ironman course a couple weeks after the early October competition.