BLUETOOTH SIG is the latest organisation to add its approval to the news that Robot Wars has been recommissioned by the BBC.
Steve Hegenderfer, director of developer programmes and friend of The INQUIRER, explains why Bluetooth is the perfect technology for the new series.
"Bluetooth is ideal for robots such as this. The distance is relatively low (100 metres or less), the amount of data transmitted to a battling robot would be in pretty small bursts at any given time, and you would want to make sure that the radio signals could get through and wouldn’t fail due to channel conflicts," he said.
"Bluetooth Smart covers all of these, and was in fact purpose-built for this type of communication. Of course, Robot Wars specifically wasn’t top of mind for the architects, but sensors and ‘things’ definitely were.
"It's a direct, P2P protocol that is well known, easy to deploy and build on, and inexpensive to integrate. Plus, it's everywhere, and control harnesses could be created with apps instead of actual hardware if you wanted (Bluetooth has native support in every mobile platform out there)."
The BBC has confirmed that it will air six new 60-minute episodes this year, exploring the technology behind the robots as well as the carnage of the new Bulletproof Arena in Glasgow that production company Mentorn Scotland has promised. We're not clear whether the bulletproof thing is to protect spectators from the robots or the Glaswegians.
The TV programme, originally presented by Jeremy Clarkson and then Craig Charles with 'pit reporter' Philippa Forrester, was first broadcast in 1998 and canned in 2004 after an unsuccessful move to Channel 5. But Robot Wars has continued to be big business with nationwide tours and international tournaments against equivalent leagues around the world.
After much Twitter chatter, a petition has been launched to bring back Craig Charles as presenter after he told followers he'd #lovetodoit. Commentator Jonathan Pearce has also said he's up for the comeback.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the reboot is that, rather than being dumb radio controlled robots, technology has moved on to robots with compute power, basic artificial intelligence and an end to the ubiquitous control problems faced by the spotty nerd 'Roboteers'.
The INQUIRER chatted to Eben Upton, CEO of IoT pioneers the Raspberry Pi Foundation, whose products are likely to form the 'brains' of many of the new robots.
"I think it's great news that it's coming back. Really exciting. I hope that some of the teams will use Raspberry Pis to build their robots. Definitely!" he told us.
Upton believes that the new Robot Wars will overcome one of the biggest challenges faced by the 'analogue' contestants.
"One of the biggest problems was that sometimes the robots had fearsome potential but couldn't be controlled well, and often it came down to who had the best controller, not who had the best robot," he said.
And the solution? "I'd like to see driverless Robot Wars. Robots that use the addition of compute to be really fierce. Yeah, autonomous Robot Wars would be great."
Perhaps the best bit of Robot Wars was the fearsome house robots whose popularity was such that you could buy models of them to play with. Where Matilda, Sergeant Bash, Shunt, Sir Killalot, Dead Metal et al are now, we've no idea, but we'd love to see them souped up, smarter, tougher, more badass and better than ever.
Robot Wars always seemed a concept ahead of its time in the late nineties, and rebooting it for the IoT era could turn out to be a stroke of genius. The promise by the BBC to give us "more science" suggests plans for the new series to be as much about how the robots work as how they pummel the bejesus out of each other.
Kim Shillinglaw, controller of BBC Two and BBC Four, said: "With new technological advances making for an even more exciting and immersive experience, this is a fantastic example of the kind of content-rich factual entertainment that BBC Two excels at."
The INQUIRER is going to be all over this one - we're at Excitement Factor SQUEEEE. The phrase "maybe we should build a robot" has even been spoken in hushed tones.
There's no airdate for the new series beyond "sometime in 2016". To paraphrase one of Craig Charles' parting poems: "Time to dust off your teeth and claws, because they've gone and brought back Robot Wars!" µ
What are your memories of Robot Wars? What do you want the new series to bring? Let us know below. But first a classic Robot Wars moment ...
And another we'd really rather forget. Yes, this was actually a thing that happened.
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