"Shoot, we have enough crap in the garage. We can build a combat robot."
June 18, 2013 12:09 PM   Subscribe

"Gentlemen, welcome to Robot Club. The first rule of Robot Club is: you do not talk about about Robot Club. The second rule of Robot Club is, you do not talk about… wait, I… got that wrong. Um. The second rule is: no smoking."
posted by Nossidge at 12:39 PM on June 18, 2013

I can still remember hearing one of the announcers introducing one of the robots with something like "IT HAS A MIND FOR DESTRUCTION AND A SHOVEL FULL OF HATE" and 'shovel full of hate' has been one of my stock-phrases ever since.
posted by jquinby at 12:42 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Description: A gas-powered spinner, almost like a remote-controlled floor buffer.
Weaponry: Two small pieces of metal and the spinning power give it a saw-like quality.
Creator: Jamie Hyneman
Record: 4-4

posted by ardgedee at 12:47 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

My concept for a battlebot goes something like this: highly powered electromagnet covered in red-hot pokers. Stationary.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2013

Man I remember going to Robot Wars and BattleBots, it was a blast. A friend of mine still does these events, Combots and RoboGames.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:52 PM on June 18, 2013

I had an awesome BattleBot design back in the day, but no resources or time to build it. It was a combo wedge, lifter, spinner. The wedge was actually the leading edge of a lifter, fork-lifter style, that fed to a raised industrial lawn-mower maw on the roof. Ram, lift, tilt, feed. I coulda been a contenda!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:53 PM on June 18, 2013

Interesting. I remember the Sklar brothers used to do spots in-between the robot fights on the show. That might have been the first time I saw them--I certainly remembered that when "Cheap Seats" came on.

I so want to see the little duct-tape-wielding robot mentioned towards the end--that's a great idea.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:13 PM on June 18, 2013

IP Lawyer is the ultimate battlebot. It can ruin anything.
posted by srboisvert at 1:15 PM on June 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

I remember hating the wedges because it felt like every other bot was a wedge, and now I know why. Fuck wedges! I want to see robots whaling on each other, not scoring the battlebots equivalent of ring outs.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:21 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I knew a guy who was building a sledge hammer based robot in his garage. After his first test, he learned the hard way that the first test should have been to test the kill switch. He had to patch the concrete. A lot.
posted by plinth at 1:27 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

not scoring the battlebots equivalent of ring outs.

Robo-Sumo would have been a better description, true.
posted by GuyZero at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2013

Well, these day the robots are a lot smaller to the extent that they use 'em for kids' birthday parties in your own living room. This guy came to my neighbour's kid's party and it was pretty awesome.
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder how SRL, Battlebots, and Robogames all influenced each other.

I've worked Robogames and had a blast.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:55 PM on June 18, 2013

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had one of these going on when I was there several years ago, but the robots had to gather helium balloons that had been stationed around the arena and return them to the robot's home net (looked like a hockey goal)-- that was the main objective, but they could also attack one another or steal balloons. It was a shitton of fun to watch.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:08 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

There any mobile battlebot type games where you can design and battle robots.

Would be really neat for the ad hoc networking stuff Nintendo is always putting in their handhelds too.

I'm writing this idea next to my idea for a version of angry birds where you can play as the pigs.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:14 PM on June 18, 2013

The only thing I can recall about battlebots, which I thought of as a guilty pleasure even as a nerdy teenager, was an episode that featured a roomba-looking spinning bot with two huge nasty pointed weights attached to it.

I remember:
  1. The creators testing the bot by rolling a bowling ball at it. When the ball hit the bot, it (the ball) exploded, such was the force of the spinning weights.
  2. A series of bouts where the spinbot did basically the same thing to the other bots that it did to the bowling ball, until...
  3. In the last bout, one of the spinning weights broke off. The next ten seconds featured the now unbalanced bot shaking itself to pieces, flinging off little chunks of itself until nothing was left but scraps of metal and a couple of wheels.
It was pretty cool.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Jamie Hyneman, the "Mythbusters" guy, walked up to the guy he's going against and starts asking him questions about the robot. Then he goes back to his table and pulls out this file, and starts sharpening the teeth on his robot. And I think he put an Alka-Seltzer in his mouth, so he's drooling this bubbly drool, it's just pouring out of his mouth. He looks over to the guy, just drooling and holding his breath so he's red.

I am so happy to read that I'm not the only one who has had this dream.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [5 favorites]

This has given me a very bad idea. I have an iRobot Roomba and an iRobot Mint. I think I'm going to turn them both on in the hallway and see which one can knock the other down the stairs!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:42 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

This subject must include a mention of the recent webcomic/graphic novel "Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong" which reaches its dramatic climax (SPOILERS) at a Robot Battle competition (with some comically stereotypical competitors and an almost-enjoyable scene where the Nerds bully a Jock).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2013

Crud. Copy paste error. Obviously, the Mint Floor Cleaner isn't an iRobot product, it's a competitor product.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:51 PM on June 18, 2013

The only thing I can recall about battlebots, which I thought of as a guilty pleasure even as a nerdy teenager, was an episode that featured a roomba-looking spinning bot with two huge nasty pointed weights attached to it.

Ah, yes. Son of Whyachi. The spinbots generally brought the destruction. There was some other "Ziggo" or something that was a spinning dome that did really well.
posted by LionIndex at 2:51 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I keep forgetting: rich people really like money.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:20 PM on June 18, 2013

I watched Battlebots around the peak of the Vlad the Impaler/Biohazard rivalry. Good times. Both of those competitors were exciting because they moved fast, performed well, and didn't have the kind of obvious weaknesses that made fights a foregone conclusion.

I also loved the rumbles, which were full of wanton destruction. I seem to remember a robot from a lighter weight class entering a heavyweight rumble and trouncing them all, but I bet it's just me misremembering one of the lightweight rumbles.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 3:37 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Though I never watched "Battlebots," I used to enjoy the odd episode of "Robot Wars" rebroadcast late-night on our local PBS affiliate, and have wondered from time to time why the whole fighting-robot thing seemed to run out of steam as an entertainment concept.

The legal wrangling described in the article explains a lot. So does the idea that, after a few years, three main robot types (wedges, lifters and spinners) had settled into an equilibrium not unlike that of rock-paper-scissors, making things too predictable. The earlier, crazier robots, with hammers, chainsaws, flamethrowers and whatnot, may not have been that effective in competition, but they were fun to watch.

And yeah, that duct-taping robot sounds pretty cool, too.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 3:52 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Whatever that duct-taping robot was, it was evidently too successful. The rules for mini and large robots both ban tape as a weapon.
A Mechanism Fouling Weapon is one that is not sufficient to directly cause damage, but serves only to foul a mechanism of the opponent robot. Such weapons are not allowed. They include, but are not limited to: [...] Sticky substances such as adhesive-coated tape and "Liquid String" toy products.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 4:02 PM on June 18, 2013

That's interesting, knuckle tattoos, thanks for pointing it out. While fouling an opponent's mechanism might be a clever surprise tactic, I suppose if everyone adapted it, the matches could get boring pretty fast as everything just sort of ground to a halt.

I'd still like to have seen the duct-tape bot in action, though.

Also, I remain curious about what effects that spray insulation stuff (available in cans at your local hardware store, extremely sticky, expands to a zillion times its original volume) might have on a fighting robot. I suppose I still could build my own and find out that way. :)
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 4:13 PM on June 18, 2013

My team built two robots. "I-Beam" that competed in the heavyweight ( 220lb) division of BattleBots and "King of Diamonds" which was sacrificed on Robot Wars. The two shows, although both made for TV, could not have been more different. Battlebots was a straight up competition Bot vs.Bot. which also was filmed for TV, whereas Robot Wars was a full on produced TV show, with all the bots as "props" and builders as "cast members", both to be used for whatever the producers could dream up. In just one war "King of Diamonds" was flung 40', set on fire, then pushed into a pit. Our team was paid $5000.00 plus travel to appear on Robot Wars and were flow across the pond to do so. For a chubby nerd, it doesn't get much better than that!
We were happy to pay our own way to compete on BattleBots including the entry fees, at the time we would have paid anything to get in that ring and compete! On BattleBots I met Jamie and Adam and saw Blendo destroy everything in it's path while in the ring. I sat ringside when "Son of Whyachi" self destructed when it got off balance. I saw Mark Setrakian's robots which were way more art than combat. I saw "little drummer boy" stun the masses with the first horizontally mounted spinning drum as it's weapon. I met some amazingly creative and super intelligent people who are still friends to this day. Early on, the camaraderie of the contestants in BattleBots was amazing, we would swap ideas, help rebuild Bots and root each other on like one big happy family. Imagine Renn Fair with motors and wrenches instead of giant chess and wenches.
Towards the end it kinda divided into several distinct camps. Some teams like Whyachi who came late to the party, appeared to have the spit and polish (along with the money and uniforms) of a fully funded NASCAR team. These teams were sort of seen as interlopers vs. the teams that had bootstrapped their way there from the beginning of the sport. There were also teams that just wanted TV time, and were more actors than builders. Comedy Central seemed to really be confused about what direction to take. From my inside perspective the last seasons seemed more like pro wrestling as they started to create fake rivalries and encourage costumes for the teams and started to promote "shiny" bots and pretty girls even if they didn't stand a chance of winning. It was a strange multi edged sword. The builders wanted the cool arena to fight in, which required money and ratings, but didn't want the sport to become a joke. Some teams started naming their robots things like, "Drunkin' abusive step dad" just to upset the producers. As the show got older there was less fighting and more Carmen Electra type stuff, which I think hurt the ratings with the core audience. Overall though, my experience on both shows was friggin' AWESOME! and i wouldn't trade it for anything.
posted by HappyHippo at 4:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [26 favorites]

I remember I-Beam!
I still miss BattleBots. Its the closest thing to a 'sport' I ever cared about, and I wish it was still around.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:49 PM on June 18, 2013

Crud. Copy paste error. Obviously, the Mint Floor Cleaner isn't an iRobot product, it's a competitor product.

iRobot bought Mint a few months back, you were right the first time even if unintentionally so.

I love my Mint, I do. Even if my son refuses to be in the same room as it.
posted by davros42 at 6:38 PM on June 18, 2013

Somewhere in the Venn Diagram intersection of BattleBots and Pumpkin Chunkin, there waits the Sport of the Mid Early 21st Century.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

HappyHippo, flagged as fantastic comment.
posted by JHarris at 8:53 PM on June 18, 2013

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