Who would have believed even three years ago that wrestling matches between giant robots would become the world’s most popular TV entertainment – and would explosively advance the development of industrial and commercial robots?
Transformers Smackdown, the weekly televised bot-battle, has entranced virtually every nation on the planet. The sight of giant metal beasts fighting to the death seems to appeal to some visceral instinct in mankind. So much so that 2019 will see the first Battling Bots World Olympics.
It all started back in 2015 with a crazy challenge! The guys at Megabots, a US robotics company, challenged Japan to a duel between giant robots – and the intrepid Japanese accepted!
The idea of a metal monster-mash caught the public attention immediately, and Megabots raised the US$ 500,000 they needed to make their robotic champion in less than one week, through a Kickstarter campaign. Companies from Nasa to a range of military developers piled in to support the US effort. It’s called enlightened self-interest!
The Japanese stepped up to the plate, and the robotic rumble was scheduled for the lucrative Christmas television season of 2016. The event shattered television and online viewing records, and within weeks, entrepreneurs had latched onto the idea of regular televised bot-battles between companies and nations.
Plenty of fun, yes. But the lessons in mobility and agility being learned through the contests have sparked dramatic breakthroughs on the factory floor in the development of industrial and commercial robotics. Robots are now undertaking complex and sophisticated tasks thought impossible only a few years ago.
Yet again, what was once science fiction has become a reality… and has raised new fears that The Singularity is even closer than expected. Closer; and frighteningly, perhaps envisaged through the metal brains of robot warriors.