Roboteers, stand by. Deadline reports that BattleBots, the American version of Robot Wars, could be returning after 12 years off air. Robot Wars itself hasn’t been seen on British screens since 2004.
2004. Remember it? The iPhone was three years away, people used fax machines (and not just to apply for mortgages) and Robot Wars paved the way to the pneumatic future. Many children of the time still have Sir Killalot tattoos, done with a biro and thumbtac behind the bike sheds.
Can you imagine how brilliant a modern version would be? Back then Robot Wars wasn’t really Robot Wars. It was Geek Fight Club, with teams of enthusiasts spending hours locked in sheds to build souped up remote control cars.
Unless you were in one of the lucky Scout troops who, instead of cooking sausages, built their own chainsaw-wielding deathbot (and my how the rest of us wanted to see Mr Psycho pound their creations flat, the camera zooming into their stricken faces) the nearest most kids got to controlling a robot was strapping a can of Lynx to their Tyco Rebound and calling it Sgt Bash.
But now robots are everyday: an expensive toy for the dad or news organisation who has everything. Soon they’ll be delivering pizzas and packages. With improvements in mobile computing power, GPS and artificial intelligence, modern robots could actually fight for themselves, rather than rely on a supermarket manager from Huddersfield to work the controls. This will frighten Bill Gates, but could make for some blistering fights.
If truth be told, Robot Wars got a bit dull after the invention of the wedge and flipper. Designed to slide under another robot and flip them on their back like a turtle in the sun, the design was so simple and brilliant, it quickly came to dominate. Too many matches devolved into cheese-shaped robots circling around and around each other, like the nightmare you have after brie.
Do you know what the equivalent of Robot Wars is today? Actual war. Drones are now a common part of the battlefield, and they’re armed with more than Black and Decker drills. Britain is at pains to keep up with the new robotic economy, and Robot Wars always had great links with universities and engineering departments.
It is almost grotesque to point this out, but the sky is now the limit when it comes to remote control weaponry. Literally. With the rise of drones and quadrocopters, the robots could take to the air. Robot dogfights on national television. This needs to happen.