Machines can learn like humans; they can walk like weird dogs on ice; they can beat humans in the game Go. But there’s something glorious about shitty, idiotic robots. Hebocon is an annual competition held in Tokyo dedicated to finding the shittiest possible ones, and a new short documentary captures the ensuing, extravagant shittiness well. The initial appeal is the robots themselves, which include a remote control car studded with weird pieces of flesh, a chunk of wood propelled by a mallet hitting a bell, and a spinning Barbie that vomits play-money. They square off in sumo-style matches that end, inevitably, in failure. But what really makes Hebocon is the larger philosophy of loser-dom.
Even the narrator of the video takes a gently pitying tone for the contestants. The Japanese term “heboi” implies shoddy construction, but Hebocon contestants take it to describe themselves. Losing robots are disassembled and appended to winning ones, making even successful ones over-encumbered monstrosities. It is the only competition that concludes with the winner apologizing to the audience. Watch the video and embrace the spirit of heboi.