Fan boys everywhere dream about riding inside robots to do battle. Now that fiction has inspired some real world robotics with Mech Warfare. 1/24th scale robots do battle in an arena with Airsoft guns while being ‘piloted’ by human operators. Unlike many other bot battles, Mech Warfare only allows you to view the arena through the eyes of your machine. A camera is mounted in each robot and users have to rely on this point of view to hunt down and shoot other bots in the arena. It’s like remote controlled miniature robot paintball. As Steven Wasick mentioned in his earlier coverage, Mech Warfare is a new part of the RoboGames. 2009 was the first year for MW, but it’s coming back for 2010 and promises to be better than ever. Check out highlights from last year’s tournament in the video below from Trossen Robotics, one of the sponsors of the event.
Mech Warfare is a pretty unique competition. Few tournaments focus on robots using guns to hit each other. In MW, targets are set up on the robots to register those hits and a running score is kept. Every robot has to be a walker, no treads or wheels are allowed, making the builds more difficult and forcing players to focus on turning and carefully sighting their opponents. Restricting players POV to their robot mounted camera keeps up the illusion that these robots are engaged in real military maneuvers. I’m not sure walking tanks will ever be a viable weapon in the army of the future, but the remote piloting of armed robots is something we already see in real-world military applications.
In the lead up to the RoboGames in San Francisco, clubs across the country have held smaller demonstration matches to generate interest and hone their pilot skills. This match took place early in March at the Central Illinois Robotics Club.
The Airsoft pellets in the Mech Warfare competition fly too fast for you to see. In the ‘Hardcore’ division of MW, however, robots may be using weapons that are much easier to spot: CO2 powered rifles, rocket launchers, and flame throwers. Understandably, the Hardcore battles will only occur if MW can find appropriately durable arenas at RoboGames. Also, while none of the robots I’ve seen so far are autonomous, Mech Warfare does allow for bots that pilot themselves. It will be interesting to see if any such auto-bots make it into the 2010 competition. Hopefully their makers will keep them under control. A rogue robot is bad enough, but one that can shoot guns? Not so good.
[screen capture credit: Trossen Robotics]