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Robot Combat League on Syfy

February 28, 2013

7-foot-tall humanoid robots pummel each other in the ring in Syfy’s new TV series, Robot Combat League.

The TV show features twelve different custom-built robots, each controlled by a team of two operators; one moves the robot around in the ring, while the other controls the arms through a master-slave teleoperation rig.  The robots are not freestanding; each is connected by a support bar to the side of the ring, which both keeps the robot from falling over, and supplies the 50 gallons per minute of hydraulic fluid needed to make the robots move quickly and hit hard.

There are plenty of theatrics in play — the robots are rigged with pyrotechnics to shoot out showers of sparks at dramatic moments, for example — but the mechanics are real, as is the damage the robots inflict on each other.  InsideTV’s interview with Mark Setrakian, who designed and built the robots, provides some interesting insight into the design and engineering trade-offs of these pugilistic machines.

The series premier was this Tuesday, but you can watch it online right now.  See the full schedule to find out when new episodes will be showing.

The show is not ideal, in my view — I’d be much more interested if the teams included real robot builders, who could build anything they want within the constraints of the rules.  Then we’d see some real innovation, and the winners would be the teams with the best engineers.  As it is, all the robots are provided by the show, and all based on the same skeleton and internal mechanics; the teams are merely operators.

But hey, it’s something new.  And it’s only the first season — if it does well, I expect we’ll see more innovations, and hopefully more openness, in subsequent years.


From → Culture, News, Opinion, Videos

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