Monday, January 18, 2016

The taste of Infamy

I've been quoted on a news report !

True, it's a bit of a minority website but it's one I trust (most of the time) and one that continues to make me chuckle.

Here's the article : "El Reg mulls entering Robot Wars arena". I won't quote any of it apart from my comment because of, you know, copyright and syndication issues but ... here's what I sent that sparked it : "Anyone else hoping that SPB turn their talents to making an all conquering, all destroying, punyhuman enslaving Vulturebot?"

The comment is of course, tailored for the particular brand of gallows humour that is a trademark of that site. I'd never dream of making an all conquering, all destroying, punyhuman enslaving Vulturebot.

Nope. It would be a Dragonbot.
Got you worried for a sec there.

I'd love to do a Dragonbot, designed to crush, burn, macerate and otherwise do Very Nasty Things to other robots.

Hang on a minute - there's a bit of missing context. I was a huge fan of a series called Robot Wars, which ran for a good few series on BBC (we won't talk about the Channel 5 seasons). Contestants would run machines of destruction in the arena, with house robots and various traps to liven things up if the robots became boring. It was spectacular, fun, unpredictable, celebrated robot building creativity, a great series to watch and follow. I definitely miss it. The series is coming back later this year, with shooting happening in March.

So when El Reg ran the story, I had to add in that comment with a hope that the architects of PARIS* and LOHAN** would be able to turn their talents to something more destructive. They're a good mob.

*Paper Aeroplane Released Into Space - a record setter that flew back down from the edge of space.
**Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator - a 3d printed unmanned aircraft that will (when the regulatory people sort themselves out) float up to the edge of space on a balloon before setting off a rocket. Wonder how high it will get.

The March shooting is a little too soon for a good robot to be developed but let's have a look at what it would need :

Communications - you have to be able to control the beast and this is in what you could call a "hostile" environment. Things like a wireless video sender that goes to snow when the microwave is used, interference can happen anywhere from anything, even if the thing causing the interference is only distantly related to what it's supposed to be doing. The Robot Wars arena tends to have all sorts of motors, switching things making electrical noise, plus there's the distance from where the Robot Master stands and the robot itself. Oh and the little matter of making sure the aerial doesn't fall off.

Moving - sounds simple doesn't it, just take a remote control car and use that ? Maybe. Wheels are more reliable because tracks tend to fall off easy but you have to protect the wheels under armour, which can mean the robot beaches. Yep. Wheels, plus I'd design a special motor control system for things like : Turn in place, traction control, boost for pushing. This has certain ... issues though, due to the way motors work, if you're not careful the motors can blow up the rest of the electronics when the robot stops suddenly.

Structure - the best weapon is no good if it only works once. So for the robot design, the robot has to keep its basic shape after being whacked several dozen times. If the frame distorts, it'll jam up the wheels and the weaponry.

Armour - this includes protecting from bashy weapons as well as the flipper bots which were getting very common. Sloped sides have always worked well, their aim is to divert rather than absorb. Skirts are aimed at not allowing the flipper to get underneath where it can do its work. The last consideration with the armour is that it has to allow weaponry ...

Ahhh - the good bit ...
Sadly, the robot wars people aren't allowed to make robots like that. No guns, no grenades, no tasers, no flamethrowers. Boo hiss. (I wouldn't enter a robot like those anyway, those tracks are way too exposed and the weaponry would have trouble attacking a low slung bot).

Weaponry ...

Flippers - effective but boring. These are designed to get the enemybot out of the ring, or on its back where it can't fight.
Hammers - good looking but ineffective. The problem is that the hammer either mistimes or glances off doing little damage. There is little to make the hammer or Pointy Thing pierce the enemy bot.
Saws - similar to hammers, unless you can corner an enemy bot
Piercing claws - there was a stunning robot called Razer, which was too unreliable to be a true winner. But when it did work ... it would tear chunks off any other robot. Leverage + something little = huge damage potential from sheer pressure.

And then you have the king of anti robot weaponry - the kinetic disc. The theory of this is that you spin up a heavy disc to 1000 rpm or so, with the disc having lots of kinetic energy. You then ram another robot. And all that kinetic energy goes into the other robot as pure Damage Potential. Oh and because Newton's Laws are cruel, there's an equal shock going back into the other robot.

The best disc robot was Hypnodisc (more at the wiki link). This one was in a class of its own for sheer destructive potential but ... tended to lose out to the flipperbots. The bits that made it go weren't too great (definite improvement potential!) but that disc was a masterpiece ... It was a kinetic disc ... that was a little special. It had weights that went from the inside to the outside. This made it start off light (so it could be spun up again quicker), with the weights making it heavy (with more kinetic energy damage potential) when they went to the outside of the disc.

The Dragonbot would likely be another variant on Hypnodisc. I think I would design it to be flippable, with larger wheels able to operate the robot inverted. The disc itself would be mostly inside Dragonbot.

Wait - this doesn't sound like a fitting type of robot to be called Dragon does it. It's more a Bite Yer Ankles And Chew Em Off bot.

Need flamethrowers !!!!

And more excuses to use the Mad Scientist tag.

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