Who is presenting?
Craig Charles and Philippa Forrester? Yes please
BBC 2 has shrugged off the rising android-rights movement to reboot Robot Wars, the mechano pugilistic punch-fest which enlivened many hungover Sundays* in the late '90s. The broadcaster has commissioned six one hour episodes of the new series from Mentorn Scotland, which it reckons will exploit “a raft of technological …
I was going to add that the follow-up programme, Star Gazing Live: Back to Earth, was even better. Just like The Sky at Night used to be: a bunch of experts talking about their field.
I was, but I've just checked the BBC2 schedule and they seem to have made only one Back to Earth this series. Instead you can watch the hilarious antics of Russell Howard, Clare Balding, and Stephen Fry.
Wasn't Messr Sharkey a judge on Robot Wars anyhoo?
He was also nominally "in charge" of a project at Magna, when I worked there in 2001 - 2002, which involved a "show" using autonomous robots which didn't work, mainly because they were built from cheap B&Q battery drills and the plastic gears lasted about 30 minutes. He lost interest in actually keeping the things working, despite Magna putting a lot of money into the arena where they were to be the star attraction. There was even a completely false story about one of the robots escaping - even if it had "broken out of its paddock", it wouldn't have been able to get as far as the car park before either throwing a cog or running out of battery (or more likely, just continually bashing its head against one of the arena walls), let alone reaching the M1.
The story did find its way to the main BBC News website at the time, but I can't find it there now, perhaps they have removed it.
The robots were "handed over" to us, the centre's engineering team, and we spent several weeks investigating how to make the blasted things more reliable and actually able to do the things they were being advertised as doing. Eventually (IIRC) we decided to keep them going as they were because there wasn't a budget available to completely rebuild them. Eventually they were ditched altogether.
Sharkey was disinterested in the little robots because the next project was more exciting - robotic airships. Unfortunately they were just as awful. They had so little lifting power that the electronics was seriously short of battery power. They were intended to fly around the building (Magna is built inside an old steelworks) but not only were they too weedy to overcome the light airflow through the building without being pushed sideways, their sensors - essentially the ultrasonic focus units from Polaroid cameras - simply didn't work and they kept crashing into things.
The things were so seriously behind schedule, and Sharkey wouldn't put any more students on the task (the project was basically being run by a pair of Phd students), that I had to bring a friend of mine up from South Wales to work the summer holidays finishing off the mechanical parts - cutting, shaping, glueing bits of Carbon fibre.
The escaping robot story evidently created a lot of interest because I note that shortly after I left this story popped up about one of them escaping. To be honest, this story is slightly more believable as the building they were being developed in had large roller-shutter doors at both ends and the balloons did occasionally end up tangled in the overhead crane even while I was there. On the other hand, this followup story smacks of overegging the pudding again as I really don't think the blimp would have stayed together for long enough to get 300 miles away. More likely it had crashed into a tree and was floating down the Don.
Needless to say (but I will anyway) the blimps never worked and were never - as far as I'm aware - put into use.
I had a great time working at Magna, though the management was awful. I note that they are no longer open all year round and find that not at all surprising as the place simply couldn't make money. The appointment of a manager to manage the maintenance department's manager was only a symptom and I was "made redundant" in 2002, along with a colleague from the maintenance department, bringing that department down to two actual engineers and two managers. About three months later they appointed a new engineer - on a much lower salary than the rest of us had been getting - and then they sacked the manager's manager. Within 18 months of me leaving there were only two members of permanent staff on the whole site who had also been there when I was "made redundant".
Me? Bitter? Not really; although I was out of work for 9 months after that, it gave me the push to enable me to start up on my own as an electrician, and it cut many of the ties my new family had with South Yorkshire, enabling us to move to South Wales to be nearer my parents and where for the first five years we owned a house mortgage-free, prices being that much lower down here.
I've not been back since, though now that one of my ex-colleagues has actually gone back to work at Magna part-time, perhaps I should visit.
As for Robot Wars, my boys have recently, and completely independently, discovered the original series which is being shown nightly on "Challenge" (ch 145 Freesat / ch 45 Freeview). They are quite excited by the prospect of a new series, though they are getting a bit jaded by the old one.
Me, I went off it when it stopped being about "clever" robots and obstacle courses and simply became people with too much disposable income burning it on national TV.
"Wow, you're really a barrel of laughs."
That doesn't mean he isn't also exceedingly accurate. When the contestants will be required to keep their hands in plain view and off any remote controls during the actual fight I might even become interested, but not until then. Yes, it's excellent practice for CAD use in industrial housing design and failure modes of mechanical linkages. No, it has nothing to do with "robots" or any meaningful notion of combat based on anything other than mostly just sheer luck.
BBC Select. I'd almost forgotten about that! Did you watch it with or without the descrambling?
However, my all-time favourite retro show was that odd programme they used to show in the middle of the night which consisted of a bunch of random-looking black and white dots dancing all over the screen. The soundtrack was almost incomprehensible to the point of being little more than a loud hiss. Amazing!
Seemed to be on all the channels at one point. It was very avant-garde, yet they even showed it on ITV back then- can you imagine them being so experimental today?
They did an American version too; you can see it on the TV set in the film "Poltergeist" where I think it formed part of the plot.
The BBC must be worrying about the loss of licence payers if they are bringing back watchable TV! A good show that demonstrated that 'kill it with fire' only applies to things that will be killed by fire (remembering a particular bot covered in flammable material for amusement) and the enjoyment of watching multiple 'trials' before they went head to head for a smashfest. I enjoyed watching people put effort into different attributes and those who relied on purely a big hammer didnt necessarily win.
Good for the BBC and hopefully they will make some more stuff of interest to me to win me back.
"Good for the BBC and hopefully they will make some more stuff of interest to me to win me back."
It makes no difference to the BBC whether you watch them or not, so long as you pay them they are happy. That's why they specialize in crap antiques, interview, cooking, quizzes with no prize money or impossible to win big. micro-short 'series', shows. They could show the testcard and not lose a penny.
If this is successful they will sell it to Sky (again).
The obvious next questions are :
1. How many BBC Micro Bit | Arduino | Beagle | Raspberry PI based robots will come out of the woodwork (metalwork ?)
2. Are swarm's of centrally controlled / distributed controlled robots allowed now ?
3. Drones ? Airspace ? 3D Wow that would add a new dimension :-)
4. Lasers ? Got to have lasers
5. Are Boston Dynamics allowed to enter ?
and ... perhaps Amazon can deliver spares for robots that have had failures ?
> IIRC the rules specifically encouraged for-the-time difficult builds such as ... walkers by allowing greater weights etc
Ah yes, a walker was allowed 200kg, a wheeled or tracked one only 100kg.
I had an interesting idea for something that would technically be a walker, while incorporating the idea of stored kinetic energy ala Hypnodisk. Just thing what that could do with another 75-100kg in the rotor :-)
Alas, I would never have been able to afford the bits even if I'd had the time - and then they canned the series.
I did here tales from "unhappy" contestants that the bouts were absolutely not run to the rules. Times were extended if the producers thought they could get another destructed machine for the TV ratings - not very fair on the builders of the machines hacked to bits after the bout should have ended.
Having worked on several of the Robot Wars spin offs - technogames etc, I doubt that the technology will change much from RC cars with a big hammer - high tech, in my case with maze solving autonomous robots was not 'exciting' enough for the production team and we were asked if we could get them to chase each other or even engineer the odd crash and the team could then add pyro for effects!!!
The thing is with the rules being what they are (weight limit of 100Kg, no explosives, fire/plasma throwing, or projectile weapons on the grounds of them being far too dangerous) robot wars ended up pretty much a solved problem. You mount a big gas-ram under a flippy thing and just throw the opposition around. There's no need for it to get higher tech. That level of tech was already basically unbeatable.
Could you not find even one person to back up the "wrath of android rights activists" claim? You quote two people from unrelated stories. I know it's hard to sex up "BBC recommissions Robot Wars" but this is a stretch. I know this makes me sound petty but I am embarrassed to have clicked on this bait.
Could you not find even one person to back up the "wrath of android rights activists" claim?
You took an El Reg title at face value instead of comedic value? Geez, as soon as I saw "robots rights activists" I figured the claim had to either be:
1) Fictional, exploiting the recent story about robo-prostitute rights activism, or
2) Some angry misfit living in their parents' cellar and not getting enough social media attention over their other obscure rights campaigns, like saving leeches from medical exploitation**
You quote two people from unrelated stories.
Regarding angry misfits, the two quoted people weren't exactly experts in robotic rights, either. They just got press time for raising a stink about the abuse of nearly non-existent robo-hookers, a titillating click bait topic.
I know this makes me sound petty but I am embarrassed to have clicked on this bait.
**Seriously, that's a thing. I know nurses who have said they're instructed to keep their leech use quiet or their hospital will be targeted by animal rights activists. Like saving a leech is more important than controlling swelling and fluid retention in re-attached amputated limbs.
As I recall, the big hammer approach tended to do quite badly against a high-speed, wedge-shaped ramming/flipping robot. It's really difficult to wield your hammer effectively against any kind of moving target by remote control and any mass put in to a weapon system was mass taken away from armour, robustness and maintaining a low CofG. The robots all got quite boringly similar in the end. Maybe that could be changed by more permissive rules around what weapons are allowed but to do that you'd have to beef up the protection for the audience.
The flipper robots weren't the most exiting to watch granted but by the later seasons there were some fantastic bots with spinning, weighted discs and crushing jaws.
Razer was my favorite https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razer_(robot)
Many bots also 'evolved' righting mechanisms that effectively rendered the flipper bots toothless.
"Many bots also 'evolved' righting mechanisms that effectively rendered the flipper bots toothless."
That depended on your strategy. Chaos 2 was usually let down by reliability, not the novelty of it's hoofing flipper, which was more than adequate to roll their opponent so they could shunt them in the pit or a patrol zone whilst they were busy righting themselves (Razer's SRiMech for instance was elegant but slow). That's assuming they hadn't flipped them out the arena entirely.
Battle Bots contestants by contrast never really got into flippers because they had an entirely enclosed arena with no way to eject your opponent from proceedings.
Still giggling at that one!
So I think I'm right in saying that in the previous series, the robots were just remote controlled things? Will that be the case in the new series, or will they be completely autonomous? Or a bit of both?
Don't the fly-wheel-bots always win?
I wonder if the ALF could reform as the Android Liberation Front, freeing Robot War contestant machines from their warehouses and workshops before being put in the arena and being smashed to death?
I guess that would be considered some kind of terrorism these days; one
man's robot's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.
I don't think there's really any robo ethical questions here...
Unless things change a lot, it'll still just be tarted up RC cars with hammers wanged on the front, and all the high tech ones will get annihilated by some kids with a flipper, quicker reactions, and a desire to murderbone everything.
I still enjoy it though...
I imagine the main controls, will as mentioned, just be a remote control device, although perhaps via clicking on a touch screen, rather than via direct forward/backwards/turn type controls.
But I can imagine with the throw away costs of things like the pi zero and similar boards, these will likely have lots of sensors and automated or semi-automated processing.
Which would allow for things like automatic firing of weapons (or defences).
oh yes - locally autonomous control of say, easily acquired and converted cordless power tool with modern li-ion or li-polymer batteries, could make for some considerable upgrades compared with past.
Even without the local control - matched counter rotating angle grinders perhaps?
I'm looking for the screwfix catalogue that went in the recycling bin last night now!
>Why even bother with the physical machines smashing each other up?
Because software without hardware can be boring.
With the hardware, teams will be composed of people with different skillsets, as well as encouraging young people to learn practical skills.
Personally, I'd like to autonomous robot wars, with standard constraints. Just as an example:
- The CPU must be a XYZ with an RST GPU, programed in [language]
- Power supplies must be no more than N x li-ion batteries of DEF variety. If this was a commercial show, they could have sponsorship from an 18v powertool manufacturer, and state that all 'bots must use Ryobi/Makita/whoever model BAT018 batteries, for consistency.
I'd even be tempted to specify standard materials ( "No more than X Kg of 3mm sheet aluminium, X Kg of standard PLA or ABS polymer, X Kg misc, etc"), to place the emphasis on design and engineering, and not just whose dad has access to a milling machine. The materials I've specced can be easily worked (with a jigsaw, or laser-cut by a bueaea, or 3D printed) in almost any garage.
Huh? Can someone expand on what they objected to in my post?
- the the software-on-hardware format?
- the idea of restricting the hardware and materials that can be used?
- the idea of restricting the construction methods so that they are accessible to a wide pool of participants?
Genuinely, I'd respect your point of view, but I just don't know what it is!
If it's any help I quite like the idea though I'd be a smidge less perspective: You can use any processing you like up to a given value ceiling and program it in your choice of language.
There's a need (and it needs to be well thought out) to balance innovation and doing things the producers haven't thought of vs who ever can afford the best wins.
I gave you an upvote. Cos as entertaining as RW was, it was still basically one remote control vehicle against another.
I'd like to see armed robots that decide themselves how to attack, what routes to take, when and what weapons to deploy. No user interaction allowed apart from initial switch on.
And some kind of final Predator style self-destruct.
> If it's going to be AI vs AI, as you suggest, why not do it all virtually, with people submitting their code to run in a simulated environment.
It's been done.
You'd think an 80's coder would be aware of CoreWars?
Apparently it's still alive and well. Mmmmm ... Recode!
CoreWars? Don't I remember typing that in out of a magazine on the school's BBC Micros? Or perhaps it was on a cover disc. I thought all my geeky schoolmates would love it, but only one of them got the hang of Redcode and the others were too much into AD&D or somesuch to spare the time. I had good fun myself though...
Not sure how "fresh" they could make this given that, apart from minor tweaks, the top predator slots have all been established at this stage. So despite some technological advances (or at least more people coming at this via Arduino and Pi rather than RC), the metagame is still going to be like it was before: wedge vs spinning disk vs puncturing/smashing/crushing.
Maybe one thing that could be done would be to have "power-ups" like in Wipeout. The first to roll over a lit power-up tile would get some sort of bonus weapon like:
* releasing a bowling ball
* giving partial control over a house bot
* pistons or conveyor belts
* temporarily jamming another player's controller
* raising sunken bollards
* activating ramps or platforms
Basically if evolution of the bots has slowed/stopped then maybe evolving the arena is the way to go.
Another way to go might be to vary the games so that it's not all about destroying the other bots. You could have rounds based on stuff like a slalom course, circuit racing, robot football and maybe some autonomous challenges (no RC). Take out the destructive element, though, and it's less Robot Wars and more something like Scrapheap Challenge or The Great Egg Race. Hardly likely to appeal to purists.
Yeah, the problem with the original show was that Robot A might be destroyed on its first round, and unable to compete. Why is this an issue? Because if one accepts a Rock-Paper-Scissors scenario as plausible, it makes competitor's fate luck of the draw.
Contestants, working within material and construction constraints, submit their designs to the BBC. If there robot is damaged, new parts are laser-cut and 3D printed by the BBC, and assembled by the team. The team may also choose from a limited, but wide, selection of off-the-shelf components (Bloggs disc saws, Jones' hammer heads and centre-punches, etc, nuts, bolts, ) Hell, having the teams assemble their components into a robot could be a competitive round in its own right, rewarding design-for-maintenance)
Having robots that are smaller, lighter aqnd quicker to make using simpler tools (once custom laser and £d-printed parts are supplied) would result in a more rapid 'evolution' of the teams' designs.
Actually, screw the BBC and let's launch the Reg Automonous Robot Death Match* tournament of our own.
As a bonus, it would make the forums more fun to moderate:
Sir, you have downvoted me and I demand satisfaction! Robots at dawn! Or about ten am if you want to get a full English first!
"yeah, the problem with the original show was that Robot A might be destroyed on its first round, and unable to compete. Why is this an issue? Because if one accepts a Rock-Paper-Scissors-lizard-spock scenario as plausible, it makes competitor's fate luck of the draw."
Hypnodisc - That was the flywheel spinning machine that destroyed most enemies it came across.
I happened to live near where the original series was filmed, and our kids were invited to be in the live studio audience.
Attending that was a bit of a wizard of oz moment. Seeing how the magic of television was actually created - with the director yelling cut mid fight, so a house robot could be tweaked/saved from imminent death, kind of took some of the wonder away.
@IsJustABloke; Yeah, that's the most important thing about having female contestants on Robot Wars- that they're attractive, so that salivating male nerds can drool all over them.
God forbid any remotely average-looking women would appear on Robot Wars with a p**s-poor justification like her robot being well enough built to win the competition.
Also, I bet all the male contestants were f*****g Adonises too, right?
With attitudes like that, I can't begin to imagine why Robot Wars would have been such a "sausage fest" in the first place. *cough*
Yes, God forbid a (probably male) commentard notes that (a) there actually were female contestants attending as well and (b) they also happened to be attractive, the thing any male brain is wired to notice first, second and third - or are you implying should a non-attractive female contestant have won the audience would have booed them off stage and the judges would have taken the trophy back...?
No, I'm saying that the first thing the guy noted after noting the presence of women was their appearance- nothing to do with the reason for their being on the show, nothing to do with how good they were or how they compared to the men in that respect.
Implication was pretty damn obvious that the first thing they're going to be judged on is their appearance. The flip side is that any woman who has the temerity to be less than a stereotypical beauty knows damn well that the opposite is likely to apply too, regardless of her technical and fighting skills.
I sure as hell wouldn't blame some insecure-about-her-appearance teenage girl for having second thoughts about wanting to get involved in the thing. Or, for that matter, any woman who was interested in electronics etc. who happened to be attractive but wasn't interested in being there solely to be judged on her appearance and drooled over.
Pretty sure I (as a man) wouldn't be interested in working in a field dominated by women where they were judged on their ability but I was constantly being judged on how close I came to being a male model. (Hint; I don't, I'm a pretty average-looking guy).
And enough with the "that's the way my brain is wired" BS excuse for poorly-socialised leches. You're not a monkey, you have the ability to keep your mouth shut and override that in much the way that you manage not to blurt out to your attractive female dentist that you'd like to **** her, even if you would. (Well, at least I hope you can).
Actually, he's filming another series of Red Dwarf at the moment. And on New Year's Eve, his Radio 6 Funk show shifted to Radio 2 for the afternoon.
But yeah, I saw him DJ at a night club last year, and his enthusiasm did appear to be... enhanced.
Whoever wrote this article clearly didn't really watch it and certainly never saw the US version. This was really good engineering at work and it encouraged youngsters to actually build something for a change.
Imagine what can be done now with better battery packs, lot's of low cost Chinese power parts, video links, wifi and blue-tooth links, sensors of every kind with Raspberry Pi's and Arduino's inside. "Robot Wars Rebooted" ought to be the title.
As for the BBC saying it will be an "immersive experience", are Microsoft paying for it (fingers already down throat)?
Back in 2001 I convinced my then electronics teacher that the school should enter a robot in to Robot Wars. He agreed, so I designed the robot and got two pals involved as well. Then Robot Wars stopped so the project didn't happen.
Wasn't until about a month ago while moving my stuff out of my mom's house to my new house that I came across the original drawings for the robot I had designed. I still think it was a beautiful functional design, and I was a bit sad that it never got built.
But now I can realise my dreams of being a roboteer and shaking hands with Craig Charles and having something upon my person shook by Phillipa Forrester.... although I'm not so keen on the latter now.
The interesting thing was watching the evolution of the robots from series to series as some thing were found to work and others were discarded or improved. Then towards the end it kind of reached a plateau of what was possible with the tech available and without spending tens of thousands.
However, as other have said I don't reckon on any great leaps in the tech. It will still be quite rooted in tool-shed tech.
Nah, that would fail.
Windows would decide to do 435 updates and require a reboot during the battle.
Windows GWX would use all your wireless bandwidth downloading a copy of Windows 11 just in case you might want to install it now, or tonight.
Your battery now goes flat due to the above and you loose the battle.
Anyhow, you need not worry, your microphone is not Windows compatible in the first place.
Robot - a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer. Never saw one of those on "Robot Wars"
Android - (in science fiction) a robot with a human appearance. Nope, never saw one of those either, except once or twice when Craig was hungover. :)
As for the reboot,.. LET THE WARS BEGIN!!
Should surely change her/his name to Shim Killinglaw in honour of this announcement.
Also hoping for some favourites to return such as Razer. I used to like the idea of Gemini too http://robotwars.wikia.com/wiki/Gemini
In terms of pit reporter totty they were all quite nice, I liked Julia Reed too(http://robotwars.wikia.com/wiki/Julia_Reed). Only have vague memories of Jayne Middlemiss doing the show (http://robotwars.wikia.com/wiki/Jayne_Middlemiss).
Always thought on Robot Wars they might do some different types of challenges, obstacle courses or races to break things up. Of course the ultimate would be a fight between the house robots or the series winner taking on a house robot of their choice. I assume though that the house robots were massively overpowered compared to what the competitors were allowed to produce.
Ah yes, my school were asked to be in series two - helped build our 'bot, which wouldn't power up in the (non-televised) qualifier, so we had to pull out- turned out it was a flat battery.
Was built from an old beer keg, with tartan tape stripes round it, to show off our "Scottishness".
This "reboot", will probably be just a pale imitation of Robot Wars, which will probably bore rather than inspire.
FFS will you please stop giving that rapid Feminazi Kathleen Richardson (you got her name wrong again) airtime?
She's one of the growing numbers of left wing "thinkers" who believe they can impose their radical eccentric views on the rest of us.
She wants to ban sex robots. Why? Simple, because given a choice of shagging her or a robot, most hot blooded males would choose the robot. She's a munter. What she can't have she doesn't want other people to have. There you are, real true socialism
theres an interesting commentary on her views at
If you haven't seen it, I suggest a look at SyFy channel's 'Robot Combat League'. It's clearly quite heavily 'stage-managed' but it looks spectacular - like a real-life go at the fights of Real Steel.
The robots are huge upright, hydraulically-actuated walking frames (though cheekily stabilised - possibly even moved around - by a massive strut from behind). One operator moves the robot, the other wears a pair of 'Waldo'* arms that replicate movements onto the robot and they just punch each other to pieces.
*Check your Heinlein
The world needs a form of "Robot Wars" that allows ANY style, weapons or configuration of "robot".
The robots should be "fully autonomous" other than the RC commands to start and stop battling. Not like the "Real Steel" knockoff where it's more like a huge puppet show of "Rock'em, Sock'em Robots"
An abandoned quarry would probably be the best site, that way flame throwers and missiles wouldn't be likely to damage anyone. There would also be enough space and enough places to hide in ambush.
I'll even bet that MOD and DARPA would help provide funding and other resources
OK, call me a grumpy old person, but I've the sneaky feeling that RW in todays day and age of Health and Safety could be a bit of a ... challenge. On top of that, it isn't really innovative, now is it, recycling an 18 year old TV program format?
Then again, thinking out of the box, inspired by recent El Reg postings: what about one team flying a self build drone around and an other ground based team releasing their autonomous bot to shoot it down? Hell, a successful one could even be a commercial block buster!
He and one of my other work colleagues built Clawed Hopper but he hates flying (not that it would be easy to have a 200lb robot as hand luggage) so the move from making the program in Birmingham to Glasgow mean that he won't be taking part in the new series.
You could do Liverpool - Belfast - Stranraer - Glasgow if you were desperate for a ferry ride and/or had some strange aversion to Hadrian's wall. Ok the last leg is by coach. However, I think the question was more, how come he was happy to commit the huge amount of effort and significant money required to build a warrior robot but not the relatively small amount of effort and money required to rent a van and drive to Glasgow?
This is very sour for a bitter man. I worked at Magna back then and Prof Sharkey's robots made a great show until the funding ran out. He did not have a couple of students on the project. There was large funding for 5 post doctoral staff and the built all of the robots and used genetic algorithms to program them. Almost half a million visitor came to see them in their first year.
It was a robot food chain with 15 small prey robots getting their energy with solar panels - they had to find light trees to recharge. Then bigger predator robots hunted the prey and sucked about half their battery power. It was fascinating and there was a lot of media attention in 2001 with a lot of film footage around at the time. I will try to locate some.
Eventually the funding ran out and lay offs at Magna meant that there were no staff to maintain them - they started falling apart and the prof asked the exhibition to be shut down.
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