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Japanese robot to undertake Hawaii's Ironman challenge (+ video)

Mr Evolta has conquered the Grand Canyon, but can he take on epic swim, bike ride and run inside time limit?

A tiny robot developed on behalf of Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic will next month attempt to complete the Ironman triathlon course in Hawaii – a 3.86-kilometre swim, 180.25-kilometre bike ride and 42.195-kilometre, marathon distance run.

While human competitors typically face a cut-off time of 17 hours to complete the gruelling event, Mr Evolta – named after the brand of Panasonic-made rechargeable batteries that give him his power – will have 168 hours to finish the course, though his inventor believes he'll need to keep an eye on the clock to succeed.

This is the fourth annual challenge that various incarnations of the robot have undertaken, with previous ones including climbing a rope up the Grand Canyon, completing 24 hours of the Le Mans motor racing circuit, and walking the 500 kilometres from Tokyo to Kyoto.

“I have to say the hurdles are much higher in this year’s challenge,” said Mr Evolta’s creator, Tomotaka Takahashi of Kyoto University’s Robo Garage in a video released by Panasonic.

“The robots can use up to three rechargeable batteries. With just those three batteries, the robots must swim, bike and run a total of 230 kilometres and reach their goal within one week.

“To reach their goal the robots must spend every moment, day and night, either recharging or on the move.”

After outlining the issues facing the robot on the swimming leg, Takahashi went on to look at the ones designed for the bike ride and the run – there is a separate robot for each of the three disciplines.

“Our biggest issue was how to balance power with ruggedness,” he explains. “For example in the bike course the robots face the strongest sun they’ve ever encountered and blustering ocean winds.”

Obstacles facing the robot on the run, meanwhile, include problems associated with kerb height, previously addressed in the Tokyo to Kyoto challenge.

There’s no news of future challenges, but we reckon a good few people would fork out to watch a pay-per-view UFC bout that that pitted Mr Evolta against rival battery-pusher, the Duracell Bunny…

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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