Written by Garry Dix
Robot Wars is back! Or it will be, later this year, with the BBC set to revitalise the show with a special six-part series. This news triggered a flood of memories in my 23 year old brain, as it frantically remembered why Dead Metal was the best house robot (giant scorpions are a winning design) and why Hypno-Disc seemingly won every match I saw (the same adherence to minimal functionality as Apple – I might be projecting with this one). As I recaptured those evenings sat watching the programme with my little brother, I began to think about how an audience in 2016 would react to the news.
Naturally, in an age where everyone has an opinion to broadcast over the internet, naysayers have already began to rain on Robot Wars’ parade. Chiefly, the complaints are centred around the fact that the winning formula for a robot has already been found – “it’ll be won by something with either a big flipper or something shaped like a wedge,” was a particularly outstanding quote found on the Guardian. There was a thread through various online comments that we’ve seen this all before; flamethrowers, Jonathan Pearce going overboard with alliteration, Craig Charles’ tassles and poetry combo. The same robotic designs will win and the series will fade back into obscurity once more.
However it’s worth remembering that the last series of the programme aired in 2003 – and that was after the rights were purchased by Channel 5, so I’m not sure if anyone saw it. 13 years is a lifetime in technology and engineering, and I’m guessing that new approaches will be taken with the new series, in much the same way that technology has sped forward.
We have reached peak ‘more’ with our technology in 2016. From phones to internet to data capabilities, the last few years have been very much a case of bigger, faster and with more bells and whistles attached. But this is beginning to cause problems. Phones have better photography tech than some cameras but run out of battery within 8 hours, companies are catching more insightful data than ever before but leaking this like a sieve to hackers and breaches, and while high speed internet is alive and kicking in metropolitan areas some rural communities are still struggling to refresh Twitter.
Technology companies at the moment need to stop trying to answer the same questions that have been around forever, and instead start thinking about better ones to tackle. Thinking smart is infinitely preferable to thinking big, and those that can think of entirely different ways to operate are going to have a far more successful – and enjoyable – time than those simply looking to expand on what’s been seen before. Forget wedge-shapes and flippers, my money is on the drone-based competitor using machine-learning principles and a 3D printer to blast the arena to pieces and learn while doing it.
So fear not Robot Wars fans – with people beginning to think creatively to find solutions, you may well get more than you bargained for. In the indomitable style of Craig Charles: bigger and faster is often a bore, so think out the box for technology wars!