In Japanese, the word “heboi” (へぼい) means “mediocre.” Or “crappy.” Or “unperfected,” “poor in quality,” “poor in ability,” or… you get the point. When something is heboi, it’s inefficient. And for Hebocon, an annually held “crappy” robot sumo-wrestling competition, robots are built to be as heboi as humanly possible. The first Hebocon was held in Japan in July 2014, before inspiring other Hebocon spin-offs all across the world. Last summer in Japan, the first international version was born: the Hebocon World Championship.
“Heboi is beautiful,” explains a newly released English-subtitled video recounting the competition from August. “The reversal of [competition] values excited people [all over] the world.” By its short probable definition, Hebocon is Stupid Hackathon meets Battle Bots. But the goal of Hebocon has never been to win, or which robot is mechanically superior. The goal has always been the opposite: to enjoy the wholesome goofiness of heboi robots, and the hilarity that ensues when two impractical bots awkwardly
fight bump into one another.
Hebocon has existed at a local capacity in Japan alongside its micro-competitions from all across the world for a few years now. In 2016, the Hebocon World Championship marked the first wholly international competition, with its largest gathering of different creators to date: with 22 teams from Japan alone and 10 teams from six foreign countries joining the battle. In a post-mortem write-up by Hebocon’s founder Daiju Ishikawa, he noted how the idea of doing anything at an international level was nearly a joke: an impossible dream that would never happen. Until it happened, that is.
a reversal of competition values by embracing the silly
The Hebocon World Championship 2016 featured a special guest judge: Arduino co-founder David Cuartielles, who is also a key organizer for Hebocon Spain. The worldwide-congregating competition featured dozens of bizarre creations, from the “Cup Noodle King” that packs a “petty punch,” to a robot whose primary weapon is its a spray of dry ice—physically blown by the team themselves. In the mini documentary behind the international competition, the team behind the dry ice spewing machine were reportedly rejected from buying even more dry ice at the grocery store. (What a shame.)
And Hebocon is not without its regulars, notably the illustrious Anipole Kyoko. “Kyoko, [a] former pole dancer is our regular entry since the first Hebocon,” wrote Ishikawa. “She always brings pole dance themed robots with a spinning doll on the body, and this one is her sixth robot. I [cannot] remember how many times I’ve mentioned to her, ‘Are real pole dancers spinning like this?'” Ishikawa’s referencing the breakneck speed at which the pole-dancing doll is propelled—while doing the splits—around a plastic pole. Kyoko’s sixth robot has a K.O.-capable climactic move too: it plays the song “Party Rock Anthem” while spitting out cash, aesthetically similar to a certain Big Baby D.R.A.M. music video.
Kyoko’s pole dancing bot is only one of many wild robots created for Hebocon. With creators coming from diverse backgrounds and foreign countries, the Hebocon World Championship was a successful romp of togetherness. How no matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or who you are, you can always count on others to lovingly celebrate the stupidest of ideas for the decidedly un-tech savvy.