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BYO Battlebot 117

An anonymous submitter sent in: "With the new season of BattleBots coming up (filmed in SF over Memorial Day weekend) everyone is sick of the same-old design of a glorified R/C car. This site has the full design for a bot that runs on an onboard 486 and is controlled off a laptop with quake-style controls! Build your own for around $100 by using mostly old parts." On the other hand, has info on how to build an expensive battlebot.
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BYO Battlebot

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Being the person in the picture and being odd most my life this doesnt really effect me. It is a bad picture though. When the publicity shots for come up there is a much better picture. Here is more info: Team TuxBot builds BattleBots for fun and not profit. All profits from competition will be donated to the EFF and FSF. Unfortunately we didnt advance far enough to win money this time. (Cant say how far due to an NDA) All of our programmers are allready Free Software developers whom work for Our sponsors are/were Linux Journal, Tri-M Engineering, and As for build reports I've got them and they need to go up. Suffice to say we were too busy making the bot ready to actually compete to keep as good of records as we should of. (We were working till 4am on this thing then getting up around 8am for work.) If you really want build reports I'll post what little we have. Currently we're busy rebuilding Violator and our new bots. If you are looking for *real* build reports then join the BattleBots forum on Delphi. Team TuxBot is open to anyone whom builds a Linux powered BattleBot and agrees to donate any profits to the Free Software Foundation and or EFF. (Or pretty much any other advocacy group) Even if they dont join I'd really like to see the other Linux teams agree to the donation principle. If they dont then I dont think they are doing this for the right reasons. (AKA the "Right thing to do") Cheers, Eric Molitor
  • As mentioned, Christian Carlberg [] has made some terrific robots (Minion [], in particular, has won the Super Heavyweight title [] in the past).

    But, of the Battlebots, my favorite is Mauler []. A spin-bot, Mauler rapidly spins and can do some serious damage to other robots []. It's a shame, though, that Mauler has such low reliability -- in past fights, it always seemed to just sputter and die (mostly from encounters with the hazards). If Team Mauler could just make a more robust version, I think they could really go far in the event.

    On another note, I've had to do without cable tv (due to my current unemployment), including Comedy Central. So, I'm looking for someone that could tape BattleBots for me. Perhaps you could fill a VHS tape at SLP, and then I'd PayPal some money to cover the cost of the tape and expenses. Or, something like that -- e-mail me if you're interested.

    Alex Bischoff
  • Oh yah, I completly forgot, a 6 chan heli radio, or aircraft radio costs over $300. Most profesional bots will probobly have an 8 chan radio, a high end futaba most likely, you're looking at about $1000 for one of those.

    R/C cars are fun, but they don't hurt your wallet like planes and helis do...
  • -- I think people on battlebots are just too cheap sometimes to drop in a $250 all digital 3-channel control system. In my opinion, its damn worth it. --

    As the other poster said, most of these run like tanks. It would be rough to get good control out of a tank like car using a pistol style control. Allthought, it would be interesting to see how they control a tank style system using the two sticks as forward/reverse for each side, considering the left stick is usually a throtle that doesn't snap back to the middle like the stick on the right. Maybe there's a way to modify the radio to fix that problem, I've never looked into that... If you read the build your own battle bot thing, the author recomends a 6 chan heli radio. That's still twice as many chans as your high end 3 chan pistol system. You need that kind of control for turning on saws and droping blades, and whatever else it is your bot does.

    Besides, using a stick system isn't that hard, I do cars and airplanes right now, maybe helis soon. You get used to the controls for both. I'm precise with either a car or a well built plane. Allthough since I don't normally do cars, I'm much better with a stick type radio I use with my planes. It's just a matter of practice.
  • >They allow autonomous bots, just none of the autonomous robots choose
    >to compete against the human controlled robots.

    building the autonomous bot is one thing. Letting it choose who it competes with is another :)


  • You'd get people to pay again and again to see it *lose* . . .


  • Never mind controls, you need only one: direction. Then hit him with a nuclear pumped X-ray laser. OK, so by it's nature, it destroys itself, but that's what MAD was all about :)



  • >I'm sure a heavy bot isn't as easy to drive as an R/C race car, but c'mon, most
    >of these guys could do a lot better, and I think better controls would

    the lack of tactile feedback would be a problem . . .

    (I saw one guy using a freaking joystick... I think he got his
    >clock cleaned, too. Use the right tool for the job, Chester!)

    Hey, yeah! one of those microsoft joysticks with feedback :)

    hmm, *are* the cars allowed to transmit information back?

    >A parking lot is a lot bigger than the
    >arena, and poor control won't be punished as much.

    OK, so add weird women in peculiar black outfits and whips at the parking lot .
    . .

    hawk, recovering once more from an anonymous post . . .

  • "What would it say about humans if we took intelligent, thinking beings and threw them in a pit to fight to the death just because they were machines?"

    It's been done.

    Or don't you remember Roman history?
  • I reckon whoever get around to putting a video camera onto their robot would have no problem out manouevring their opponents - having a first-person viewpoint means you can really start controlling your robot reflexively.
  • by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Sunday July 15, 2001 @07:40AM (#84395) Homepage Journal
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned that Slashdot has their own battle bot [] in the works. I'm also surprised that I came across this on sourceforge instead of reading it on Slashdot.
  • First, glorified RC cars are not a bad thing. I wish my REGULAR car was as ludicrous as my Nitro RC, and I have a shiny new sports car as it is. 1.2 bhp on the dyno for something that weighs about 1.15 kg. Talk about power to weight ratios! Plus a full PCS system including a working 3rd channel for making needle valve adjustments on the fly, tunable modulated hard braking (ABS), etc. This car has nearly as many tuning options as a real race car. With proper gearing and a 2-speed transmission this thing can get to 60 as quickly as most sports cars. Top speed is about 70 (gear-limited).

    I think people on battlebots are just too cheap sometimes to drop in a $250 all digital 3-channel control system. In my opinion, its damn worth it.
  • the actual process. This is RC wars, a ROBOT implies programing and a self guided mechanism.
    Make them program in the enemies' size and characteristics, then allow the 2 programs to go at it :) Not that I don't watch and enjoy the show as it is but the mis-use of the term has always annoyed me.
  • Back in the day about 4-5 years ago, before Comedy Central picked up on it, they had the Robot Wars competition in one large 4 or 6-hour event on the Discovery Channel. No sportscasters, stupid interviews, etc. It was thouroghly better than what they do today...and I think a bit of the rules about weapons and such were more relaxed.

    I think you'll find Robot Wars [http] is still going, even after all the nonsense about who owned the name.

    See also [] and SMIDSY []

  • I'm wondering if you've ever tried to build a self-motivated robot.

    While I completely agree that AI would be a nicer way to have bots fight, its damn near impossible with the current state of sensor-ware. It's far too imperfect and slow.

    Oh actually unless you're talking about the kind of sensor-ware that ends up in high-grade military weapons. Then it probably wouldn't be battlebots anymore. It would be an entirely different monster.

    I do however think you could have AI augmented bots, that do things like attempt to auto-aim the on board weaponry after the human controller has gotten them close. Or some kind of in-bred overriding defense response.
  • It would be easier to put Linux, or the operating system of your choice, on a flash card. From what I have read, these can be used as a direct replacement for an IDE hard disk.
  • I say why not use REAL weapons: guns, flamethrowers, EMP devices, etc.

    BATF agents are not known for their sense of humor. There is a licensing category for "destructive devices", but it would be a lot of trouble and expense. Plus, California has some of the worst weapons laws in the country. One way around California's stupid laws might be to become a movie producer. There are exemptions written into the laws for Hollywood.

  • by Soko ( 17987 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:32PM (#84402) Homepage
    From the site:

    Yep! This is a 486DX2/66 running Windows 98 on a 340 meg laptop hard drive. new meaning to "Blue Screen Of Death", don't it?

  • by JoeLinux ( 20366 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <xunileoj>> on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:10PM (#84403) Homepage
    I say why not use REAL weapons: guns, flamethrowers, EMP devices, etc. That would pique my interest. Have the announcers discuss why a particular bot has to have a Faraday cage around it when the other robot does something. Also, it would bring testing to a whole new level. Fireproofed, shock proofed, etc.

    Just my $.02


    All things are possible, except skiing thru a revolving door.
  • Yours may have been cool looking, but this one came with a log of how it was made. More info, pictures. Not "We made a linux robot! Yay us!" but "We made a linux robot! It works like this, and here is how we built it, and here's why we think linux'll help."
  • Hello Mr. User ID 211768, Build a robot like you describe and fight it against a robotic combat champ. If it's true, as you say, there's no excuse, I'll be seeing you at the next BattleBots. Who gave this post a score of 5?
  • Range and interference ARE a problem, even with PCM radio. You've got lights, arena hazards, camera equipment and the like all giving off radio waves. This is something that R/C airplane people don't have to deal with. And I know this for a fact. I competed at BattleBots Treasure Island and had interference problems.
  • You should enjoy rooting for the robot Son of Whyachi on the new BattleBots season. Comedy Central's BattleBots preview commercial shows a 0.5 second clip if it smashing Biohazard.

    You can see all the heavyweight competitors [] at

  • I had to borrow a radio at the last minute (Murphy's Law). I believe it was in the 75 Mhz band. Definitely PCM. As I've seen, PCM can glitch, too.

    The people at the TX impound told me that EVERY 72 and 75 Mhz channel was in use by more than one robot. Futaba PCM radios seemed to be very popular.

  • I've been building combat robots for a few years now, and competed at BattleBots Treasure Island 2001. I thought I'd offer some insight on this robot.

    PVC is a bit weak for BattleBots. I used it on my first robot, The Tunabomber [], but that was for DragonCon's Robot Battles, where they don't have killsaws or robots like Whacker and Ziggo. Incidentally, my website has a tutorial similar to the one referenced in this story, but with more detail.

    An onboard PC is certainly overkill for control. I do give it points for hack value, though. Competitors who want computer control functions usually use the IFI [] system. This also allows you to use PC joysticks to control your robot remotely (a joystick setup was mentioned in an earlier post, this is almost certainly what was used).

    I wonder why the guys who built this robot didn't compete with it. After going through all that effort, it should be worth it to get to the competition, if only to see your robot ripped to shreds.

    Finally, please moderate down all those people who talk about how easy it is to build a winning robot, unless they've actually done it. Slashdotters: as with Open Source, it's put up or shut up.

  • by Halster ( 34667 )
    "Bring Your Own" Battlebot? Shouldn't this read D.I.Y. or something, instead of inventing an acronym?

    "How much truth can advertising buy?" - iNsuRge [] - AK47
  • Taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary []:

    One entry found for BYO.

    Main Entry: BYO
    Function: abbreviation
    bring your own

    If only you'd BYO dictionary.

    "How much truth can advertising buy?" - iNsuRge [] - AK47
  • As others have said, those weapons are illegal under the current rules, entirely for safety reasons.

    Now, how about "Extreme Battlebots": The arena is open, dozens of remote cameras are the only spectators for a thousand feet around. Use whatever weapon systems you want, up to and including explosives (within a reasonable limit, of course).

    You'd have to go off-shore, more than likely, due to the explsoives, but otherwise it could work. Now, would anyone want to compete? And, how do you deal with the 'bot that is nothing but a satchel charge with wheels?

    Still, it'd be fun to watch.

  • Doh!

    So much for previewing my post...


    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Sunday July 15, 2001 @08:26PM (#84414) Homepage
    I went to the Phoenix show (1996?), and recently (October 2001) helped Mark Pauline and David Therrien set up for a demo here in Phoenix (at X.E.R.O/ChemLab) to show off one of the pulsejets that was to be used on their new hovercraft (which was supposed to make an appearance at the Ultraviolence show in Phoenix - but it got cancelled thanks to a lovely interaction between the SF Fire Marshal and the Phoenix Fire Marshal - thanks a lot, guys! Bastards!), and also a video showing of various prior shows.

    The demo went off without a hitch - though every time I saw the pulsejet running - glowing white hot and screaming like a banshee on speed, being manipulated by Mark and company using asbetos gloves, next to the 50 gallon tank of propane that powered it - I wondered if we weren't all going to end up crispy critters.

    If you haven't seen an SRL show - you don't have any idea what you are missing - picture being in the middle of a war zone, along with a crash-up derby, and a lot of fire, heat, and smoke - plus a ton of noise that manages to rattle every tooth and bone in your body, while deafening you despite wearing ear protection, incidentally making your ears ring for hours after the show - and you might have some idea about what happens during one.

    I put in that time to help on the show - all volunteer, mind you - hoping to help out later for the real show - and then it doesn't happen! Gah!

    Anyhow - yeah - SRL makes Battlebots look weak, weak, weak - of course, SRL does beaucoup planning to keep accidents, etc from happening - while Battlebots is more "anachistic" in that fashion, in a way. I tend to think of Battlebots as a tamed down SRL real battle (whereas the destruction of SRL's machines, while real - doesn't tend to utterly destroy them, as sometimes happens with Battlebots), and a different form of entertainment (plus, without all the smoke, flames, heat, and falling ash - it is easier to see what is happening)...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • Now when someone says, "My laptop can blow yours out of the water", they may not be exagerating.

    Bulletproof portable anyone?

  • Flying bots are illegal
    (a little whoring never hurt nobody)
    ----- --- - - -
  • then why does your car act as a feraday cage when it gets hit by lightning?
  • I'm sure you guys all remember the security bots and the moral dilemnas... well, why not make this bot totally Quake? Nailguns are cheap and lightweight... ;)
    ---------------------------------------------- ------------------
    Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey...
  • while(1):

  • by ffatTony ( 63354 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:11PM (#84420)

    I'll be first to admit comedy central's battlebots is dull. My friend came up with a way to spice it up. His solution... your 200lb, saw covered robot vs a sack of fluffy animals (puppies, kitties, or duckies would all do).

    I didn't say it was a good idea

  • If he was wearing slashdot hat you're article would have been aproved in a second.
  • Actually, this wouldn't help much at all. You'd have a narrow little view of the action.

    Much better to practice with your bot and learn how to use the 3rd person perspective to your advantage.

    People have tried putting cameras on R/C planes and cars with various degress of success -- but it rarely works as well as an experienced pilot/driver with a good view of the craft.

  • A PCM radio is just as vulerable to interference as a FM radio -- in fact, it sends it's signal the exact same way that a FM radio does. The signal itself is different, however -- it has servo signals, checksums and failsafe information.

    If the signal is lost for a fraction of a second, servos stay in the location of their last known `good' signal. If the signal is lost for longer, they go to the `failsafe' setting, which probably turns off all the motors if the bot is configured properly.

    With FM, interference usually just causes your servos to stop moving and stay where they were -- but sometimes the right interference can cause `glitches' -- which could be dangerous. Normally they don't occur under normal conditions, but from what you said, a BattleBots tournament isn't a normal condition.

    PCM radios have higher latency than FM radios -- your imputs translate to servo movement more slowly -- but it's a pretty small difference and most people don't even notice.

    That all being said, having a 300 lb robot with a chainsaw in front, having a PCM radio (with it's failsafe settings correctly set) is probably a good precaution, especially if the interference is as bad as you say it is.

    So, what frequency band was your radio equipment on? :) What did most people use? (do you know?)


  • Three channels typically isn't enough for a serious battlebot.

    For a car, two channels is the norm and you can get a third channel for more money -- but that's it. For more channels, you'll have to get plane equipment or spend a *lot* of money on specialised hardware.

    `All digital' isn't required (I assume you mean PCM?) FM or even AM ought to be fine (but BattleBots prohibits AM, so it's moot) -- after all, modern R/C equipment has an effective range of around 1.5 miles -- far further than you can even *see* your plane. For a bot, it's unlikely to ever go more than 100 yards from you. At that range, interference isn't much of a problem, even for AM, unless somebody is on your exact frequency.

    One thing to note that they don't seem to tell you -- in the US, airplane radios use the 72mhz band, which the FCC has designated for aircraft only. To use it for a ground craft is *illegal*. For ground craft, you're supposed to use the 75mhz band. (There's also the 27mhz band, but few people use it because it's also used by CB radios and there's only 6 channels there anyways. And there's also the 50 and 53mhz bands, but you need to have a ham radio license to use these.)

    Futaba [] will convert some of their higher end radios from the 72mhz band to 75mhz band for $40.

    If you do actually make your own robot, please don't use 72mhz equipment! There may be a flying field a half mile away that you don't know about, and you could crash somebody's plane without even knowing it.

    (I emailed the guy about this, and his email bounced -- mailbox full. Guess it got /.ed ...)


  • why the hell don't the operators use pistol-grip style controllers?
    Many battlebots drive like tanks. With no steering servo, these pistol-grip controllers won't work well, unless you do some sort of mixing (where the steering control adjusts the speed of the two wheels/tracks.) Could be done, but adds complexity, making things less reliable.

    Also, you'll be very hard pressed to find a pistol grip controller with more than 3 channels. Of course, if you have a seperate driver and gunner, giving the driver a pistol grip controller and the gunner a standard two stick airplane controller (on two different channels, of course) would probably work great.

    Also, the two stick controllers aren't bad for R/C cars at all. I've got both, and while I do prefer the pistol grip, it's not that big of a deal. But then again, maybe I'm biased because I mostly fly R/C planes rather than drive R/C cars.


  • They should use a Panasonic Toughbook [] ... I used to use one out in the field, and would occasionally drop the thing 3 feet onto concrete...those things are TOUGH.
  • Yeah, I could stick a stuffed monkey in a Barbie car with spikes on the front, but I think that the kill saws and the hammer will make short shrift of said device. This ain't "lawnmower vs. weed-whacker" kids!
    A variation [] of this has been done. It actually won a couple of fights due to its manuverability and the talent of its drivers.

    ( "Buddy Lee Don't Play In The Street" was the bot: =66 )

  • If you employ magnets/electromagnets in your BattleBot design you must inform the Technical/Safety Inspectors of their presence and demonstrate that they will not cause radio interference. You may be disqualified at anytime if your BattleBots is found to cause radio interference.
    Are there any battlebots that don't employ magnets/electromagnets? I don't remember seeing any steam-driven bots, but I could have missed something. I've seen a few gas engines, but they were just for show.

    I guess the real technological breakthrough would be interfacing the electronics to the mechanicals without using solenoids.


  • by RevRigel ( 90335 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:40PM (#84429)
    They allow autonomous bots, just none of the autonomous robots choose to compete against the human controlled robots. It's my understanding that there are certain exhibitions fights (such as Mark Setrakian's Mechadon, Snake, etc.) for robots that fall outside the rules but are still entertaining for the audience, so autonomous bots tend to fight there, but I believe they're few and far between.
    I'm into autonomous robots myself, and am considering getting into BattleBots, but at least with some fly-by-wire intelligence on board, perhaps with some sensors as well.
    I think your assertion about 'the current state of AI' is a little misguided. When was the last time you sat down with a compiler and tried to write something to make a robot do anything, much less be intelligent, or engage targets with deadly force at its own discretion? Don't you think there's a reason the military still mostly has 'dumb' weaponry..aside from being guided by GPS and recognizing its target optically in a highly preprogrammed manner, it's still dumb.
    Another thing is..the more intelligent a robot is, the less likely you are to want to see it destroyed. What would it say about humans if we took intelligent, thinking beings and threw them in a pit to fight to the death just because they were machines? I think it's better left as an extension of the phallus (not that Battlebots isn't fun :).
  • Being able to perform complex human tasks does NOT imply AI. Assembly line robots in the car industry certainly don't use AI to get things done, rather they simply replay what they were told to do. That is certainly not what is typically meant by the term AI.
  • Sounds like you'd be interested in this:

    I'm waiting for Linux support, but not very patiently. :)

  • Actually, a lot of the BB builders use Vantec speed controllers. Some have onboard mixing for 2 channels, just plug them in and go.

    Many designs also only use ONE stick for forward/reverse and steering.

    Check out's FAQ [] for more info.


  • Heh. When was the last time you made a spot weld in a precise location?

    AI != robot

  • Here at the Univ. Of Pitt. We have a single CS honors class it is a robotic type class. we don't get to build robots, however We do get to write software for robots. We used these groovy little things called Pioneer 2's Thy rocked. We slapped laptops into their serial ports and could control the bot through the laptop. But it gets cooler. We installed X on the laptops and slapped Wireless cards into the lappys. We exported X-sessions over our wireless network and ran our GUI apps for the robots from far far away. Which was good. Cuase they were fast little boogers and there are still a few dents in the wall from when ours shot off at full spped and our PID control couldn't keep up =b But X + Laptop or some form of box + Wireless == killer bots
  • Wouldn't you really love to see Crow and Tom Servo [] from MST3K [] go at it in a steel cage death match?

    I know I would.

  • How about duct taping a bunch of cute furries to the outside of your R/C vehicle (these aren't really bots except to marketers and ID10ts). Then you could attack with impunity while the victim blathered on about how the use of animal shields was inhuman.

    Ever see "Road Warrior"? And yes, I thought about saying "duck tape ducklings".

  • Running Win 98 on a 486DX2/66 running Windows 98 on a 340 meg laptop hard drive, huh? Phew, that barely scrapes through the minimum specs []. It's gonna run like a pig, and that's not considering they'll need some space for the software too. I guess that BSOD is gonna be a very common experience. Surely a P100 wouldn't have killed their budget that much?
  • Hello All,

    Just wanted to tell you all about something much more realistic then entering a bot in BattleBots (plus more flexible ;-)) Build your own Lego Bot! A few of us in Albany, New York have started a group called BattleBricks, where we build bots for various competitions once a month and try to destroy our fellow opponents. Quite fun!

    Check us out: []


    When Good Plastic Goes Bad
  • If you want to see robots with weapons they are allowed on robticon on TLC mind you roboticon is even more lame than battlebots. I've seen nets shot from one robot and there was one that had a poorly implemented flamethrower. considering that we only have two choices for robot action on tv I'd have to say that battlebots is by far the more interesting show. roboticon is just boring. ahmet zappa is a dweeb.
  • Just a quote i heard at the european robot soccer competition in amsterdam, 2000. It was about the iranian people winning with their team because they didn't have the money for expensive hardware (so no harddrive) and therefore had to do it all in RAM (or floppy i guess). The punchline was that a lot of the harddrives locked up and crashed the robots. So just don't use a harddrive like they did but a floppy linux release or so, though that would probably be hard to get X on.
  • Battlebots sounds pretty weak compared to the stuff SRL [] does. Not having/watching a T.V., I am uncertain about the details of these shows, but to me it sounds like SRL takes both Battlebots and Scrapheap-mumble to a whole new level.

  • guess i wasn't paying attention ... heh ... i wonder what the judges would say to a bot with an 802.11b controller, let alone a DOS attack against said bot.
  • Not sure how you'd get away with ECM ... the rulebook [] says :
    If you employ magnets/electromagnets in your BattleBot design you must inform the Technical/Safety Inspectors of their presence and demonstrate that they will not cause radio interference. You may be disqualified at anytime if your BattleBots is found to cause radio interference.
    Darn ... good idea tho :)
  • From the article, "When an attack comes from the top, the springs compress which drives the entire shell to the floor. Once the armor is on the floor (which is before the springs completely contract) the force of the attack is transfered to the floor through the primary supports in the armor. Thus, the attackers force never actually contacts the weak PVC frame." - and the floor pushes back on the primary supports, causing them to buckle, yes? Am I missing something or does this part of the design really work?
  • The nice thing about Robot Sumo is that there is a fair number of local competions closely patterned after the original .jp Robot Sumo and one of the robot classes is autonomous.

    Northwest Robot Sumo (Contains many links to other Sumo's) []
    Atlanta Hobby Robot Club Mini Sumo Robot Contest Rules []
    Central Illinois Robotics Club 2001 Sumo Rules []
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday July 15, 2001 @09:51AM (#84446) Homepage
    His site has the full design for a bot that runs on an onboard 486 and is controlled off a laptop with quake-style controls!

    It looks like they put in a computer, then used it to emulate a really dumb R/C controller. Why?

    Watching those things, it's clear what's wrong. People are driving them visually, which means too long a reaction time. They need some onboard smarts.

    The idea here is to get inside the other guy's OODA cycle [], so he's reacting to what you were doing, not what you are doing.

    The first step is to get some onboard heading control. Put in some cheap rate gyros, then control orientation with a knob attached to an encoder. Want a 90 degree turn, spin the knob 90 degrees. That way, you'll get the desired heading on the first try.

    Second, some kind of system that senses the opponent at close range and maintains position relative to them so the weapons can work would be a big win. Ancient though they are, the old Polaroid sonars would probably work. Use the piezo ones, not the electret ones; they're more rugged. And use separate send and receive sensors, so there's no minimum range. The idea is to make the weapons stay on a target long enough to have an effect.

  • The new season (which just started airing) is a little better. First off, the hazards are much more dangerous, and can actually do damage. (The hammer, which was rather useless previously, seriously crushed one bot that was on its way to victory.) Secondly, there were many more contestants this year, so not only is there a better crop of bots, but the producers can afford to be selective and not show the really boring and pointless matches.

    It's an upward cycle, really. The more people that see it, the more people that participate and the better the competition.

  • by Fred Ferrigno ( 122319 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:48PM (#84448)
    Because they're all banned []. There are reasons for all of them, if you think about it, mostly for the audience's safety and judging purposes. I don't think they're trying to make the bots wussy.

  • I don't see the term "AI" anywhere in there

    Then what is "a variety of often complex human tasks on command" other than tasks that require artificial intelligence?

    You'll probably say next: I said "AI," not "things that mean exactly AI."

    Buzzword compliance and trademark compliance can be Almost Worthless(tm); for instance, FreeBSD and GNU/Linux do not carry the UNIX trademark but are drop-in replacements for a UNIX system.

  • I would have thought that something like a Palm Vx(or any palm really) would have been better. Way smaller, lighter, takes less power, more reliable, and probably easier to progam for.

    It may not be as powerfull. But motion control for something like radio gear doesn't even require the power of a 286, let alone a 486 with a 340MB(!) Harddrive.

  • Yes, but flash is expensive and (electrically) fragile. It's also hellishly slow to access, but that's probably not an issue here. It's light and low powered (when reading), but again, that's not an issue in a typical battle bot.

    Maybe I'm a luddite, but I'd prefer a cheap, electrically robust hard drive.

    Flashcards may be more electricaly fragile. But they are more mechanicly stronger than a HD, since they have no moving parts.

    Don't forget these are battle bots. It gets a little more intense than just "opps... I dropped my laptop." (and one could even consider that intense).

    Also, if you talking about CF cards (I think they can be used just like an IDE drive, with an adapter). You can get them quite cheaply now, especialy for a 8-16MB card. That's plenty of room. Unless you install win98 on it. But since you can get linux on a iPaq. I shouldn't be too hard to get a striped down version of linux on to a CF card.

  • I think the main issue is that those robots drive like tanks. That way the design is much easier and it's also easier to get out of hot spots or to face the enemy without having to look like trying to parallel park.

    Now, regarding the article, if they think that their AI will do a better job.. ..good luck !
  • Your Bot wouldn't be too mobile with a Faraday Cage - the things have to be tethered to a 30 ft. groundspike to dissipate external electrical fields...
  • Unfortunately, the Battlebot rules say no water. In fact, here's everything they say.

    11.2 Forbidden Weapons
    The following weapons may not be used:
    Electricity - The use of electricity as a weapon shall be forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
    Stun Guns/Cattle Prods
    RF jamming equipment, etc.

    Liquids - The use of any liquid as a weapon shall be forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
    Water and other liquids
    Liquefied gasses
    Chemicals or corrosives
    Foams, Adhesives, etc.

    Explosives or Flammable Solids - This includes, but is not limited to the following:
    DOT Class C devices
    Gunpowder/Cartridge Primers
    Military Explosives, etc.
    Gasoline, alcohol, ether, etc.

    Lights - Lights that are bright enough to obstruct an Official, Contestant, or Judge's vision shall be forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
    Lasers over 5mW output.
    Any Strobe Light
    Flood type lights

    Visual Obstruction - Any attempt to impair the vision of another Contestant shall be forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
    Visible smoke
    Lights/lasers directed at the Contestants, etc.

    A BattleBot that smothers/covers another BattleBot is permitted.

    Projectiles - Untethered projectiles are forbidden. Tethered projectiles are allowed. Tethered projectiles can carry a tremendous amount of energy, the restraints must be strong enough to absorb this energy without sustaining any damage. The length of the tether as measured from the body of the BattleBot to the tip of the projectile must be less than 10 feet. Contestant may be disqualified for intentionally using a tether as an entanglement device (see #8).

    Heat/Cold - Heat or cold specifically generated to damage an opponent is forbidden.
    Flame Throwers
    Plasma Torches, etc.
    Liquid Nitrogen

    Entanglement Devices - Any device specifically designed to entangle another BattleBot shall be forbidden. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
    Any type of net.
    Fishing Line, String, etc.

    A grappling hook type weapon is not considered an entanglement device.

  • by kennyj449 ( 151268 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:58PM (#84455)
    We (the /. crowd) can rip off the PVC ghetto bot, cover it in paper machet armor (not like it would make a difference anyway against ramming or flipping), write JonKatz on two sides, write Alex Chiu on the other two, and stick a picture of the AYB alien on the top. Battlebot fodder that represents the three most hated presences on the Internet, getting mauled in its first match.

    We'd have to make sure there'd be a visible Windows logo too. Maybe have it light up when the bot dies. I'm thinking BatSignal here.
    What would really be great would be if it actually won a match.
    Although actually, knowing how junkyards come into play, there IS a decent weapon available - the phallic sonic ramrod. Take any working, but junked vibrator (just be sure to wear gloves...), overclock it (double the voltage, stick a Peltier in there, etc. etc.) attach a sharpened roof nail to the end, and voila - a ramrod that vibrates the opposition apart while offering a superb visual effect for prime-time TV. Extra points for getting somebody to use it as originally intended without serious injury.
  • You would want to shield the arena then otherwise you'd have a very pissed off crowd when they realised their mobiles had suddenly died... Cartridge based weapons would be too dangerous to the crowd, flamers would be interesting... From a viewers perspective EMP is pretty boring, you don't see anything, jsut suddenly half the bots that forgot to add shielding stop working.

  • See if you can catch the first episode of the new season. The mechanical carnage was intense. It had more action, more twisted metal, than the whole first season put together. Very cool stuff. I can only hope the rest of the fights are as violent.

  • I use my ReplayTV to delay the show... I zip through the boring crap at 20x speed and only watch the matches. I can take the commentators for a couple of minutes at a time. I can't take ANY of the crapola between bouts.

    With a Replay, Tivo, or even VCR to skip ahead, Battlebots is about 5 minutes out of your week -- perfect.

    Live TV is for chumps.
  • by IronChef ( 164482 ) on Sunday July 15, 2001 @12:09AM (#84459)
    Quoth the article: Most battlebots are just glorified RC cars. They use off-the-shelf speed controllers, and stock RC controllers. Unfortunately, this makes them impossible to drive.

    It's not the use of R/C car parts that is the problem. A good R/C car is a dream to drive, very controllable. The problem seems to be with the operator's choice of controllers. I keep seeing these sort of twin-stick controllers [] in use for simple wedge bots with no extra weapons; why the hell don't the operators use pistol-grip style controllers []?

    I could never really get the hang of twin sticks, but I can pilot a car pretty well with a pistol grip. AFAIK all serious R/C car guys use them, and for good reason.

    The Battlebots arena is PLAGUED with really awful driving. I'm sure a heavy bot isn't as easy to drive as an R/C race car, but c'mon, most of these guys could do a lot better, and I think better controls would help. (I saw one guy using a freaking joystick... I think he got his clock cleaned, too. Use the right tool for the job, Chester!) The videos they show of the designers tearing up junk in parking lots... not a great way to practice. A parking lot is a lot bigger than the arena, and poor control won't be punished as much. Especially when you are wrecking a TV or an aquarium, instead of another bot.

    I know some bots need more than just movement controls, and a 2-channel pistol grip isn't adequate. Nonetheless, it sure looks like some teams are sabotaging themselves with a poor choice for mobility controls. Mobility is life; precise driving should be the first requirement for any bot.

    Seems to me a team should have one driver and one gunner (yep, some do, I know), or perhaps one operator using some innovative controls like footswitches to operate the weapons. A pistol grip with 2 foot switches for the bot's gadgets -- that would be the way to go!
  • Those wedge bots use a trac type drive system.. left stick controls the left trac/wheel and right stick controls right trac/wheel. If you ever drive a dixon lawnmower or a bulldozer it all comes natural. Both sticks forward for going forward, both sticks back for going backwards. 360 left with right stick forward and left back, 360 right with left forward and right back. simple right turns with left stick forward and right stick slowed or off (or yanked back momentarily for braking).

    The pistol grips dont provide the right control for trac/separate side driven vehicles. Pistol grips are ok for stuff that drives like a car.

    Joystick controls would be ok to control either design, car or trac. For a car style with joystick design forward/rev would control for/aft movement motors and left/right would control steering. For trac style forward would activiate both tracs to go forward... back would activate both tracs to go back. and left would possibly do 360 unless you programmed the 360 movements with buttons, and had left just kick the right trac forward. ditto right. But with a trac/joystick, there could be confusion of the zones where it would stop going forward and start trying to turn. (need some programming)

    If i had an unlimited supply of $ i wouldnt mind putting my traxxas nitro powered rc truck in the ring after buying all the metal replacement parts and adding a modified roll cage and add some kind of anti roll mech. My traxxas tends to roll pretty often as a cause of braking too fast or trying to turn at full speed (gotta remember star trek rules.. warp speed in straight lines, and turn on impulse speeds). I would also want to fix my reverse gear so i can repeatily ram someone (my reverse sometimes gets stuck or becomes nutral). I know this thing has a lot of weight and can pretty well ram anything. Add short peircing spike to the front and back, and start her up!

    I have taken my traxxas indoors onto concrete gym floors, confusing donuts are very easy :P power slides, and brake slides on smooth concrete require skill. (I love doing that stuff while ppl are standing around gawking.. just power slide right in front of them, then come back and brake slide to a stop at their feet and blow full throttle in reverse to left or right for some awesome donuts!) Im sure playing around in one of those robot war places would be simular surface.

  • by boaworm ( 180781 ) <> on Sunday July 15, 2001 @02:23AM (#84461) Homepage Journal
    You'll have one heck of a time to find yourself a railgun ;)...Try Hollywood though, Arnold had one in Eraser.

    Although.. they are not telling you the whole truth.. it will cost you $200 since it is no fun having a fight on your own.

  • With the cheap processing power available today and the current state of AI there is no excuse, bar incompetence, for this competition to not consist of truly autonomous robots. Until then, Battlebots will continue to be a show pandering to the lowest common denominator, relying on sex and loud music to attract an audience. Mod this message down! First off, this person doesn't know what robots are (as already pointed out). Secondly, the amonut of AI to make a bot survivable in a hostile environment is quite high, and has not really been attained yet. Thirdly, battle bots is cool. :)
  • Last I checked, one of the highend super heavyweights used a Logitech iForce Joystick. I'm not sure HOW, but all I know is that's what he used. I know that at the heavy/super heavy levels, competetors use other similarly complex control devices as well. The glorified RC Cars are really on the light and some on the middle weights. Which when you're limited by weight, you don't have much anyway. maybe a saw blade, or something. I'm wondering why no one's taken advantage of a spike, the tethered weapon rule, and the firing technology of choice by hasbro. Spring loaded. It's off topic but think about it!
  • I havent watched enough battlebots to know about that programme but I know this robot made of PVC tubing wouldnt last long against any decent robot (i.e some of the ones in Robot Wars) - onboard computer or not.

  • A robot controlled via 802.11 is pure suicide, unless there are rules prohibiting other contestants from jamming the 2.4Ghz spectrum. Heh.


  • I agree, wouldn't this be excellent if the robots actually had to rely on their sensors and their programming.

    When I was doing engineering at University we had to build responsive systems using Lego Dacta (educational tool kits, Mindstorms was born from this). Our group build a roving unit that would sense and object in front of it, if is was blue or yellow lego bricks it would attack it (swing an arm and knock it down) otherwise it would try to find a path around it.

    Now that was 7 years ago, I think we could develop a lot more fun robotics and programming now.

    Good evening and welcome to Slashdot Robot Fighters

    I like the idea of that


  • Well, naturally arming these so-called "robots" with real weapons (guns, knives, etc) could pose a threat to the public and a liability to the producers. In addition, I'm not sure where battlebots is filmed, but they would have to make sure that they comply with local gun laws, in some states (like California) that could be tricky, and the consequences for non-compliance are severe.
  • by ROBOKATZ ( 211768 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:14PM (#84468)
    Battlebots is completely lame because the robots are human controlled. And because they are human controlled, they are cannot, by definition, be called robots.

    Just because the device the human is using to control the "robot" is a computer and the "robot" has a computer onboard does not make it a robot.

    With the cheap processing power available today and the current state of AI there is no excuse, bar incompetence, for this competition to not consist of truly autonomous robots. Until then, Battlebots will continue to be a show pandering to the lowest common denominator, relying on sex and loud music to attract an audience.

  • There are a few builders who use RC Car style controllers, typically to good effect. The best controllers for Battlebots tend to be custom ones - They are becoming increasingly common(Including Battlebots that use computer joysticks for control :) The main reason for the Aircraft style radios being so common is all the extra features - I can't think of an wheel-style radios that have the programmability of a Futaba 8-series aircraft radio, nor that have so many channels (Several robots actually use all the channels on the 8 and 9 series radios).

    IMHO, as a bot builder myself (I competed in the May competition), the main enemy for bad driving is lack of practice. I ran so close on construction time that I only had about 10 minutes to practice driving before the competition; After that, I had to box it up to ship it. Some people drive for the first time in the box :) Another problem is spatial orientation - It's sometimes hard to aim weapons when you're not looking from directly behind the bot. Someone at the most recent competition tried putting a VR camera in the nose of a bot to drive that way. They recorded the feed from it; There might be some exciting shots of the camera charging at and coming very close to a spike :)

    p.s. To those of you who are talking about "Why isn't it autonomous" - There used to be an autonomous element in the competition. It fizzled out after a couple years because no one could program an AI good enough to do any damage. Actually, most of the autonomous matches involved the bots bumping into the corners for 3 minutes trying to find each other :). If you think about the complecxities - Image recognition; Trying to navigate in relation to the edge of the box and the hazards AND the opponant who is trying to outmanuver you; What happens when it sustains damage to a critical sensor; computers being fragile enough that the average battlebot fight would absolutely demolish one; and the very writing of the code to process it all; It just seems to be a bit much, and it has proven to be so in the past. Look at humans driving - we have the best computer in the world in our head, and most of us can't do it very well :). It's a cool idea, but it seems the time hasn't come for it... yet.

  • I'm not watching that Battlebots show again until they change it so those !@#$!@#$'in [i]annoying[/i] announcers have to give commentary while dodging killer robots. Or hey, I'm not picky; while [i]not[/i] dodging aforementioned killer robots, if they should so decide.
  • is Agamemnon by Team Delta. I first read about it in Nuts 'n Volts []. Team Delta [] made this bot with a built in camera and video relay to a VR Helmet and thrustmaster joystick. The weapons consisted of a weed whacker and a pneumatic punch. It is a welcome relief to find that not all bots are made up of that dumb wedge/no weapon idea.
  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:47PM (#84477) Homepage Journal
    I've submit this cool-looking, Debian GNU/Linux [] powered battlebot TuxBot [] but got rejected by /. Gods.

    Now this rugged oranges box [] got spotlighted?

    What's wrong with you guys?
  • Did you see the one match where a 'bot with a pick-ax-type thing kept going after Mr. Lee? I thing Mr. Lee even hit the kill saws at one point. But I'm pretty sure that that car was more sturdy than your average Barbie car!
  • by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:30PM (#84483) Journal
    and that problem is that when your "Doom-bot" runs up against your competitor's $4000 titanium shell that laughs at whatever sad-assed weaponary you have. There is a reason that the 'bots (at least the ones that win at least once) on Battlebots cost a shit-load of money- quality parts. Yeah, I could stick a stuffed monkey in a Barbie car with spikes on the front, but I think that the kill saws and the hammer will make short shrift of said device. This ain't "lawnmower vs. weed-whacker" kids!
  • by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Saturday July 14, 2001 @11:46PM (#84484) Journal
    Until then, Battlebots will continue to be a show pandering to the lowest common denominator, relying on sex and loud music to attract an audience.

    Damn, are you watch the Robo-Playboy channel?


    1.A mechanical device that sometimes resembles a human and is capable of performing a variety of often complex human tasks on command or by being programmed in advance.

    2.A machine or device that operates automatically or by remote control.

    3.A person who works mechanically without original thought, especially one who responds automatically to the commands of others.

    I don't see the term "AI" anywhere in there, whiz kid.
    • there is no excuse, bar incompetence, for this competition to not consist of truly autonomous robots.

    If you read the article, you'll find out exactly why there are no autonomous contenders - because they'd have to be completed by hackers.

    • PVC was chosen primarily because we are computer people, not mechanical people [...] we hit a column with a rubber mallet. The joint shattered (the hard plastic) and hit every wall in the garage!
    • the bot was retired before the armor was built [...] it never saw a fight
    • if certain relays were closed at the same time the system could short itself out, so care had to be taken when issuing commands to not do that!
    • This is what happens when you hook the batteries up backwards. A big bang, lots of smoke, and a blown cap.
    • This is what happens when you don't use fuses. Something starts to smoke... Fortunately, it was repairable and nothing expensive broke!
    • Everything on the bot is complete and works, except it draws too much power

    Note to the easily angered, I'm not dissing these guys, this is a fun project, and well documented. But it kind of typifies the hacker culture of build one to throw one away - then get bored and go on to something else. Hell, I've got a hand built car sitting in my garage that I never drive. Like these guys, I built it to learn how to do it, not to actually drive it around or anything. ;)

    • I say why not use REAL weapons: guns, flamethrowers, EMP devices, etc.

    Because some of the poor beasties can barely wobble into the arena under their own power as it is, let alone if a Cyberdyne T-200 is EMP'ing the area. Explaining the importance of shielding your systems might be instructive, but it's hardly entertaining - except maybe to us, and we're hardly a mainstream audience. ;)

    • We will release ALL of the code that is used in the bot and out under the GPL. (But only after I've tested it all)

    Kind of missing the point of open source? Release early, release often, gain strength from your screw ups, enhance your kung fu powers, and so on.

  • Yes, but flash is expensive and (electrically) fragile. It's also hellishly slow to access, but that's probably not an issue here. It's light and low powered (when reading), but again, that's not an issue in a typical battle bot.

    Maybe I'm a luddite, but I'd prefer a cheap, electrically robust hard drive.

  • by Marcus Brody ( 320463 ) on Sunday July 15, 2001 @05:12AM (#84491) Homepage
    Michael seems to think it possible:
    " controlled off a laptop with quake-style controls!"

    Like yeah right. I would love to see a BattleBot that could strafe or rocket-jump, cycle through a variety of weapons AND go mental with a quad damage, all at the same time...

  • by beanerspace ( 443710 ) on Sunday July 15, 2001 @03:28AM (#84494) Homepage
    I'm wondering how much time (not to mention cpu cycles) these guys could have saved if these guys had hacked a much simpler operating system ? Perhaps using some old-school PD source such as Tom Poindexter's Crobots [] or perhaps or one of it's various mutant prodginy [] such as the linux based C-Robots ? []
  • I don't know why someone hasn't come up with a flying bot yet? It would not be too hard to strip an RC helicopter for parts and put a powerdrill pointed down right under the rotors (or two power drills of you have to balance the torque). You just zip around the ring, line up the drills right over the power source of your enemy bot and just bore into them while they flail wildly trying to poke you with thier little ineffectual weapons...

    ...Man, I wish I had either money or free time to play with battlebots!
  • Forget BattleBots!

    The Asian Invasion continues...with Robot Sumo! [] ...coming to a tube near you this fall, and hosted by Ota Shinichiro [] of Iron Chef fame (minus his energetic english translator--he is afraid of robots)!


"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"