Jan 17, 2016 | By Kira

The BBC has officially announced plans to reactivate its cult-classic 1990’s TV show, Robot Wars, and has promised that thanks to low-cost robotic technologies that did not exist during the show's original run, potentially including 3D printing, the upcoming series will feature more innovative, powerful, and creative fighting machines than ever before.

The late 1990s was a prime era for cyberpunk fiction, with films like Ghost in the Shell, Johnny Mnemonic, Judge Dredd, and of course, The Matrix showing us the great wonders and horrors of futuristic worlds in which artificial intelligence, cybernetics and warrior robots lay down the law. Over on the small screen, the BBC had their own cyberpunk-fueled hit, although theirs was much more entertaining, and definitively grounded in reality.

Robot Wars, which aired from 1998 until around 2004, was a technological game show in which teams of amateur ‘roboteers’ would create powerful (and oftentimes comical) weaponized robots out of scrap metal, power tool components, golf cart engines, and whatever else was on hand, and then pit them against each other in gladiatorial death matches.

What Robot Wars lacked in Ryan Seacrest-worthy polish, it made up for in pure entertainment and robotic ingenuity. We’re talking about a TV show where custom-built remote-controlled fighting machines with names like Sergeant Bash, Sir Killalot and Dead Metal, equipped with everything from hydraulic pincers to flamethrowers, would have at it, trying to either deactivate their opponents, or push them into something called the ‘Pit of Oblivion.’ I’m surprised (and a little disappointed) that this show was ever taken off the air.

But now, just shy of 20 years since its original premier, Robot Wars is making a comeback, and it seems as though the celebrated Maker Movement played a key role in that decision.

Indeed, an entirely new generation of ‘roboteers’—a term coined by Robot Wars’ producers that could now been seen as a spot-on, ahead-of-its-time precursor for today’s ‘maker’—has spawned over the past few years. And thanks to advents in 3D printing, low-cost Raspberry Pi and Arduino computer boards, RC and drone technology, and loads of free online resources, it is easier than ever for these digital natives to design and build custom-made robots at home.

3D printing in particular has allowed for previously unimaginable robot designs that would make excellent competitors in the new Robot Wars' bulletproof fighting arena. For example, Disney’s VertiGO is a 3D printed robot that can drive straight up walls; this 3D printed Rhinobot can push things like a sumo wrestler; and, though we don’t recommend trying it at home, it is possible to 3D print a flamethrowing drone.

Disney's VertiGo and the RhinoBot are just examples of 3D printed robots with features that could help them compete in the Robot Wars arena

“Robot Wars is an absolute TV classic and I’m thrilled to be updating it for the next generation of viewers,” said Kim Shillinglaw, controller of BBC2 and BBC4. “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 BBC2 excels at.”

“It is remarkable to see how much more powerful these robots have become since the series last aired, with battles now staged in an arena that is literally bullet proof. And yet, the show is still fundamentally driven by the eccentricity of the brilliant brains behind the machines,” added Alan Tyler, BBC acting controller of entertainment commissioning.

While we’re not totally sold on the “content-rich, factual” programming claim, it is definitely exciting to see 3D printing and the maker movement getting mainstream attention in what is sure to be a highly entertaining television series. The BBC’s Robot Wars reboot will air as a special six-part series, premiering later this year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Alex wrote at 1/20/2016 1:33:57 AM:

I actually compete in the uk fighting robot scene and 3D print many of my robots in smaller weight classes. You won't find 3D printing used in any way past maybe a case for electronics in the heavyweights. It's just not feasible.

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