One thing that irritates me about the TV series claimed to be
"Robot Wars" (Here in Britland, at least), is that the machines
are a variation of radio-controlled toys and are not robotic.
I wonder, could we conceive of our own _REAL_ robot wars
by perhaps developing our own cruise missiles?
The technology is all there in the field of model aircraft, including
these days, turbo jets and rocket motors; although conventional
propeller-driven propulsion would not be out of place.
Clearly we wouldn't have an explosive "payload". What I suggest
is that we have 3 stationary Bluetooth receivers, and when the
missile "thinks" that is has arrived at the target, it is to transmit
a pre-arranged Bluetooth message which can then be
triangulated by the three receivers to determine the best hit.
The competition would be judged by fastest time-to-target, nearest
flight path to ground level, and closest transmission to the target.
To prevent the competition being purely a simple straight-line dash,
we would dictate a path based upon way-points to be loaded in
at the start, followed by some means of training the missiles about
the terrain of the path (i.e., there would be some vertical obstacles
for which a humped flight path would be needed).
We would still need a radio-controlled link, however, to act as an
emergency override should a missile be intent on flying away out-of-sight.
This radio-control could perhaps be instrumental in flying the missiles
around during the phase of learning the terrain?
It's a wonderful; fun intellectual challenge that would shortly be used
by some idiot to do real damage. I would like to try this challenge except
for the rel potential for destruction that comes alongside the algorithms
and methods we would find.
Sir Charles W. Shults III, K. B. B.
There is no more potential for destruction in there than there
is in the sale of bread knives which can kill; in the sale of
motor vehicles which can kill; in the sale of electricity cables
which can kill when connected to the mains.
Every technology can be used to kill. If anyone wished to
deliver lethal warheads then they could do so with current
off-the-shelf radio-controlled model aircraft, coupled with
the PIC technology that is used by most contributors to
The attack on the World Trace Centre on 11/9 was by the
use of everyday commercial aeroplanes.
Even democracy can be used to kill if you elect religious
loonies such as Dubya and Tony B. Liar to positions of
Indeed, as technology more advanced than that proposed is already
being used by the axis of evil that is the Bush/Windsor/Blair regime
to further an unlawful murderous campaign against the innocent
civilians of Iraq (many thousands of whom have died as a result)
nothing that we could do could in any way be seen to be setting
the groundwork for violent attacks against our fellow humans. It
might actually be seen as a way of liberating technological advances
from the warmongers into peaceful pursuits.
We've got in our hands the most amazing computer and sensor
technology - if only we do not let ourselves be conned into
thinking that the military have achieved something that we could
Well, perhaps a different sort of challenge might be in order, because
whatever your views, I know that as many people are likely to share mine.
Instead of hobbyist cruise missiles, why not something constructive?
There should be a robotic challenge of assembly. We have all seen the
races, the rope climbers, the egg carriers, etc. Why not a robot challenge
to construct a small masonry wall?
Consider how this would affect things. Simple robots capable of using
three points of reference, just as you propose, but they must locate the
blocks, carry them to the assembly spot (such as a prepared concrete slab)
and then apply mortar and the block.
The contest would provide as much (if not more) of a challenge and the
end result would be a machine that could be pointed at an area and construct
a usable cinderblock or brick wall.
Moral questions aside, the hardware and intellectual challenges would
not only be present and fascinating, but the end result could have wonderful
I can thing of perhaps a dozen such fascinating challenges right now,
with little or no prompting, and all of them would have direct, positive and
beneficial outcomes. Now, I agree that your proposed cruise missile
challenge is a fun and interesting one, and that yes, there could be results
for many fields such as aircraft navigation or even package delivery. And
yes, I would happily compete in such a contest, but I also am clearly aware
that anything can be a weapon. I also agree that many perfectly harmless
things can become lethal in the hands of a dedicated person.
However, why not present a clearly positive image and clearly just as
positive mind set at the start of such a contest? Oh, yeah, everyone loves
explosions and mayhem, even in simulation, but do we always have to appeal
to the basest instincts or the lowest common denominator? Perhaps that is
exactly why we have some of the problems we do today.
So, let's start with a clean slate and propose the following challenges
in order, culminating with a robotic made building.
1. A robotic slab pouring. The machines must dig the hole,
assemble the forms, and lay the metal mesh. Gravel and concrete have to be
spread and float finished. These could be set up to provide a simple patio
or even a basketball court.
2. A robotic block wall building contest. This could be done on
nearly any solid surface, and in the end the machine should be able to
construct a simple solid block wall, and for bonus points, create a solid
3. A stage two robotic wall building where they must frame door or
window openings to some arbitrary set of dimensions. Note that these will
require the machines to use rebar and place lintel stones. One step at a
time, we are adding to the repertoire of skills and making more complex
operating software, while testing it in the real world.
4. Combine the two challenges and have a two day event where the
machines pour slabs and make simple buildings.
5. Plumbing! Machine must be able to construct simple plumbing
systems, with the challenge of routing a standard city water pressure line
from a given source pipe to a destination sink or toilet. Sounds complex,
but once you look at how we do it, a lot can be learned that the machines
6. Why not wiring? Little by little, the machines are learning how
to build homes.
7. Continue in this vein with roofing, window installation, door
hanging. Let's face it, these are not rocket science. If you can write a
program to simulate this in a video game, then you are 2/3 of the way to
pulling these skills from "concept space" into reality.
8. Grand challenge: the machines build a home for Habitat for
Humanity, and then we set up a foundation that will incorporate machines and
people in a home building project. I think that this might be the project
to unite many thousands of robot hobbyists and produce a substantial
positive outcome for all of us.
What I propose might sound outrageous at first glance, but stop and
think about how a well-organized, step by step approach can result in the
conquering of many seemingly intractable problems, and in the end we can
actually see the development of those robotic helpers and cleaner that we
have often looked forward to "in the future".
Well, let me tell you something. The future is NOW. We just have to
get off our duffs and do something about it.
Sir Charles W. Shults III, K. B. B.
It's entirely constructive. When we've got the things working then
we have in our hands the makings of a private courier service
across the town. I envisage these things buzzing around just
above roof height.
There - I've revealed my ulterior motive!
--It started to happen in Battlebots right before RW decided to
sue them out of existence. There were several teams with semi-autonomous
behavior programmed into their machines. One could detect the walls of the
battlebox and orient itself; another could take evasive action, if
charged, much faster and more reliably than a human operator could have
accomplished the same thing. More was on the way, but that greedy
slimeball than now runs RW saw to it that this sort of evolution was
nipped in the bud.
What a shame. But clearly, "Robot Wars" is a great misnomer, as anyone
in this group can see. These are waldoes, not robots, and therefore when
somebody puts together a forum where actual robots do the deed, then there
is no way that they can be sued. I would think that this defense might have
been used in the Battlebots' program defense in court, but I wasn't even
aware that this had taken place. Too busy with work matters.
It sounds like somebody with a rich sponsor or two could put something
Sir Charles W. Shults III, K. B. B.
That's all well and good, but note that I never assigned any motive to
you- just pointed out the possibility of misuse. Are you aware that in
every high-powered rocketry club in America, all new members undergo a
stringent screening process? This is because without such voluntary
measures, any would-be terrorist could learn the things that any hobbyist
might know and apply them to their trade.
Furthermore, at the present, without such measures, all such clubs would
soon be nothing but a memory. If we do not choose to police ourselves and
our actions, then "big brother" always steps in to show us what is "best"
for us. The point is that if we want to have our freedoms then we have to
actively monitor what we, as responsible people, do.
Think about how difficult some aspects of hobbies have become over the
last 30 years. Do we really want the government(s) clamping down on the
robotics experimenter in the same manner? So let's downplay the
militaristic potential of our interests and stick with a positive face.
Remember that ability does not equal intent.
Sir Charles W. Shults III, K. B. B.
"Sue them out of existence"? Do the guys at Battlebots.com know they
don't exist, because they're still holding competitions and selling
merchandise. Hardly appropriate behavior for an imaginary organization...
Ironically, it was the legal dispute between Marc Thorpe and Profile
Records over the original Robot Wars that spurred the creation of
Oh yeah, I'm sure FAA and DHS would just love to have people firing
guided missles all over the country. And afterall, it's not like they're
hard to make. All those billions the government's spent perfecting such
technology is just buracratic overhead...
So, assuming you don't get thrown in jail for attempted terrorism, or
simply blow yourself up, let us know how that turns out!
Do you think Joe Public are ready for the realization that this could
actually be done by amateurs?
If the competitors weren't in it for commercial gain, they would
surely share their knowledge. Hmm Open Source Cruise. running Linux,
hehe sponsored by DHL.....the mind boggles.
Imagine if a competitor came up with a robust solution to this
problem..what risks would the competitor be exposing themselves to; in
terms of a terrorist organizations will to acquire the technology?
You are forgetting one crucial problem with your idea - it'd be
incredibly dull TV. "and there goes KillerCruise, oops it crashed"
"oo what a wheeze, they've put some fur on their
GroundRazerBlazerLaser and that pyro fireball signifies it hit the
target, oops no, it hit the adjacent orphanage, that's a penalty of 10
Nah, pretty dull.
--IMO they're dead, they just don't know it yet. I talked to Trey
Roski at RoboNexus, who bragged about the next Battlebots competition
probably happening in Feb. Guess that ain't gonna happen.
--The problem seems to be Trey; he's managed to lose all of his
friends during the extremely lengthy court proceedings. Folks I've talked
to who used to work for him say that he holds grudges pretty much
forever and has a horrible temper. I think word's gotten round and he
can't put a team together to carry on. Add to that the lack of
"bandwidth"; i.e. he can't find a network that will leave the event alone;
i.e. networks like TLC and Discovery, where the competition would seem to
be a shoe-in won't air it because they've got a bad case of "NIH"; i.e. if
they can't have complete creative freedom they won't touch it. Tech TV has
already thrown in with RW, so there's no help there. Bottom line there's
nowhere left to show the event and without the money from televising the
event Trey can't justify the expense of putting on the competition. Catch
There's an International Aerial Robotics Competition where they
do such things.
But they don't call it "Amateur Cruise Missile day" so it's prolly more
accepted by the public and regulatory agencies as well.
Web site here:
If you happened to see the New inventors on ABC here in Perth last night
(16/2/05) there was a bloke on it who had an automated mortar layer and
was working on the automated brick layer to go with it. The machine was
mainly good for doing fairly long straight runs at 1 brick/second but
can also do a corner in 10 seconds.
If you didn't see it, it was a fairly long contraption and hence not
ideal for internal feature walls and complicated shapes but it could be
made to allow for windows or doorways. The part he has finished
basically follows a course of bricks which has been layed traditionally
and applies the dry ingredients of the mortar and then injects water
into the powder. The capillary action ensures all the dry ingredients
become wet. Not only that but it leaves a nice clean edge that does not
require pointing or chemical cleaning after completion.
I can't wait to see the brick laying machine. After seeing what he has
come up with to lay the mortar, I would say his biggest issue with the
brick layer will be how to supply the bricks. I'm not sure how many
bricks are in a pack but at 1 brick/second he will either have to stop
to load the machine with another pack every 10 or 15 minutes and the
machine will have to be able to hold a tonne of bricks or maybe some
kind of conveyor feed system would be better.
Either way the machine he has made is still relatively dumb. Meaning it
has very little intelligence. I would like to see a machine where you
put a few markers on the block and the house plan is programmed in and
it does the rest. Including loading itself with raw materials (bricks,
cement etc) that have been left on the roadside. I think this bloke has
taken the first step.