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Interview with Battlebots Champion 110

Scoop writes "With the fifth season of BattleBots debuting a few days ago on Comedy Central, UGO.com chatted up contestant Jim Smentowski, creator of champion BattleBot, Nightmare. Jim shared his views on the hit show, his experience with Gary Coleman and robotics in general. No word yet on the rumored love-child between Smentowski and BB host, Carmen Electra."
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Interview with Battlebots Champion

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  • ... I want a return of the underground grassroots robot battles. Maybe an underground meet in back alley kinda thing, no corporate sponsors, a run what ya brung kinda deal, and if you can't do it without a full support team, then so be it. I'll be happy to organize the first ine in RTP.
  • Some improvements (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mulletproof ( 513805 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @03:14PM (#4137199) Homepage Journal
    When the robots become autonomous, battling without human intervention, then I'll start showing real interest. That, and lets include some serious offensive weapons. Sure, spinning around like a mad top is ok, but how about projectiles? Flamethrowers? Tazer devices? That's what I'm talking about... And maybe serious, bot-bunching obstacles. Sure you'd have to hide the audiance behind bulletproof/shatterproof glass and make them sign waivers, but hey, it'd all be hella fun.
    • by garcia ( 6573 )
      yeah, everyone wants this. Would it be safe to implement and would it be smart to implement?

      I much prefered this when it wasn't a TV show that was on all the time. When it was a once a year deal that I read about it was exciting to see.

      Now all the bots are terribly boring, the obstacles are boring, and it's not football.

      Just my worthless .02
      • >Now all the bots are terribly boring, the obstacles are boring, and it's not football.

        Well, I humbly disagree. I think it's great that I can watch it all the time. And yeah, I watch the clone shows too, and was pretty disappointed when Robotica was cancelled for that short time.

        But then again, I'm not normally a sports fan. Unless its snooker, golf, bowling, or darts. :-)
      • "it's not football"

        It could be soon, if the creators of The Jetsons were right...

    • "Sure you'd have to hide the audiance behind bulletproof/shatterproof glass and make them sign waivers, but hey, it'd all be hella fun. "

      You do realize that all of these points are, in fact, already true for the most part?

      And, Jim, great interview, are you bringing Gary back next time? Team Nightmare "roxors"!

      Andy
      Sunshine Lollibot
      students.washington.edu/andmill/
    • in the official (comedy central incarnation) battlebots rules all the above mentioned things are prohibited, tazer/emp weapons would be awsum though, flame throwers would be a bad idea because *some* of the robots are gas powered, projectiles are prohibited so u cant strap an uzi on your bot, but you can have something that fires as long as its teathered to your bot, ie. a spear or somethng thats on a cable, and on comedy centrals battlebots at least the ring is surrounded by thick lexan panels, thats not plexi glass, its the stuff your indestructable nalgene waterbottles are made of
      • I guess one way to limit the liability is to limit the amount of flammables one unit could carry, thereby limiting the explosive power should something go horribly wrong. The teathering is a good idea too. Maybe a "Limited" series with an audiance and a robot "unlimited series" with remote braodcasting and all the weapons you can mount.
      • Actually EMP weapons would probably be really boring. The robots would just stop working.
      • You're missing the point. Sure, flames and projectiles are prohibited by BB rules, but it would probably be more exciting if they weren't. Imagine a gas-powered 'bot getting hit with a flamethrower - BLAM!!! Talk about spectacular! It's all about the highlight reel, man.

        Acid sprays and tasers might be interesting too, from a pure destruction standpoint, but they're surely too dangerous to be allowed. And as other posters have mentioned, EMP weapons would be boring, and a little too destructive.

    • If safety is such an enormous concern, why not eliminate live audiences alltogether? The entire thing could be filmed in a concrete bunker by other camera robots. If you want, you could still bring live audiences in to watch the battle on cctv, and then get to watch the toasted, flaming bots get dragged out of the arena.

      A system lie this would make everything much more exciting, b/c then do you not only have the option firearm-style weapons, high explosives and rockets also become possible...

      And if the robots are autonomous, imagine the excitement when one robot wins, only to be immediately disqualified as it goes haywire and turns its sights onto one of the "camera bots"...
    • RoboCup Soccer (Score:2, Informative)

      by geekgirl21 ( 601449 )
      When the robots become autonomous, battling without human intervention, then I'll start showing real interest.

      You'd probably be interested in RoboCup Soccer. [robocup.org] The goal of this ambitious robotics project is to develop a team of fully autonomous robots that can defeat the human champion team of soccer by the year 2050.
      • Hmmm... It sounds good, but my first impression is that it wouldn't fly simply because the disparity in engineering between robots and humans. I guess it could work given the right combination of materials and some pretty stellar programming.
      • Hmm... They'll have to get the humanoid robots to the point of actually playing a game of soccer then. It sounds like they're a ways away. Coordinating a team of robots would interesting.

        Deeper RoboCup Link [robocup.org] Heh, "And taking the field, it's the Sony Beowulf Clusters!"

    • Re:Some improvements (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Getting rid of the inanane weathermen-hosts would be a start, too. Perhaps replacing them full-time with Bill Nye. And get rid of those brain-dead interviewers. If your flagship in life is having big breasts and running in slow-motion on television. Someone with an intellect greater than their cup size could provide more insightful questions than "so do you think you're gonna win next time?" and "looks like he broke your shaft" innuendo.

      Then, stop with the horrible camera shots and the painful music that is supposed to build our anticipation during the all-too-predictable battles. And maybe show more than three battles in an episode.

      I was really into the idea originally, but I gave up after two seasons. In fact, I am surprised to hear that it is still on the air. I assumed it had faded away and been replaced by something more interesting, like maybe Sports Night or reruns of That's Our Bush.
      • Get it?

        That's where they're pilfering their formats from, not to mention announcers!
        The problem for them is that they CANNOT do the morality plays with robots.... Yet. At this point, the gear and mayham angle is still predominate. I guess the sponsors plan to draw the same audience as demolision derby and monster truck shows. So don't expect much changes to occur.

        For more engineering oriented contests, check out Tech Games or Junkyard War or Robotica.
    • I seem to recall the Battlebox is made of really thick Lexan sheets. The problem is that the more destructive you let the robots be, the harder it is to even predict what measures you need to take to protect the audience. Say your bot has a flamethrower - what happens if a pulverizer makes the gas tank go boom? Now you have an explosion, fire, and a very heavy hammer flying through the air. For that matter, how do you know a wire hasn't lost some insulation and is just waiting to spark while the judge is standing next to it after the fight? How about gas leaks?

      That's another problem. With the current design, it's easy for people working in the Battlebox to know when they could, conceivably, be in danger. If they're in reach of a blade or arm, they might be in harm's way. If they aren't, they're probably safe. But as soon as you talk about ranged weapons, or even super-powerful obstacles, you increase the risk to the people, and the expense required to run the contest.
      • Actually, ranged weapons are allowed if they're tethered. Battlebots Regulations [battlebots.com], top of page 48. To be fair, however, things like lasers, electricity weapons (tazer, etc), explosives, liquids, etc, are not allowed.
      • Common, you're making it sound fun! I'd say limit the amount of onboard fuel allowed, first. As fas a projectiles flying through the air and striking the audiance with the greatest of ease, you'd have to perform worst case senarios and otherwise trash an arean before you allow the audiance in.
    • This would not be an improvement. This would backfire as an ungodly boring turnabout. Why?

      Drop some of the weapon restrictions. EMP burst, boom, I win. Game over. Joy. Hell, just blast water at the other guy, and let him short out. Yawn.

      It takes a bit of skill to design a physical weapon that will incapacitate these beasts. It takes nothing more than a thick checkbook to build a machine that will incapacitate remote controlled vehicles.
    • Next you'll see the military starting to sponsor the contestants. And next we'll see the bots in the Middle-East, hacking away at terrorist encampments. Or?
    • Who was it said "You'll never go broke appealling to the lowest common denominator"? If you look at Robot Wars, Battlebots etc. one thing is obvious - it's just a tractor pull for people who aren't from farms, but come from trailer parks. Pure white trash. Don't look for autonomous robots because they're not capable of building any. You won't see it as popular entertainment until robots are ubiquitous and disposable, just like demolition derbys didn't happen until America had more cars than it knew what to do with.
    • If you have watched an autonomous robot competition (I am assuming you have) you know they would not be that entertaining to the average person. A geek would find that entertaining but not average joe sixpack.

      And what do you think the battlebox is now? It is 1 inch thick BULLETPROOF lexan. You will see (if you watch) in the new season of Battlebots now airing some very spectacular fights near the end of the competition.

      Oh, and the current audience does sign waivers and there has been audience injuries.
  • by Caractacus Potts ( 74726 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @03:17PM (#4137214)
    Battlebots should really be called Battle-RCs, but who cares. The show is good clean fun and is inspiring the next generation to inch another step closer to creating real robots. Maybe in another 25 years or so, we'll get there. Back to my regular programming...
    • As much as I would rather see autonomous machines battle it out, tele-operated machines are still technically robots.
    • Pay close attention to number two:

      robot Pronunciation Key (rbt, -bt)
      n.
      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

      From Dictionary.com/robot [dictionary.com]
      • 2. A machine or device that operates automatically or by remote control.

        No way! That makes my motion-detecting garage light and X10 light switch robots.

        I'm OK with an assembly line welding machine being called a robot, since it accepts programming and processes commands, but not the battlebots. For robots, "by remote control" should mean the acceptance of issued commands or instructions that it should process. When the battlebots start accepting commands like "attack pattern Picard 3" or "retreat", then they'll be robots, but for now they're just ultra-cool RC cars.
  • Love-child (Score:2, Funny)

    by T-Kir ( 597145 )

    No word yet on the rumored love-child between Smentowski and BB host, Carmen Electra.

    Hmm, I wonder what Dave Navarro would have to say about that.

  • Question (Score:2, Funny)

    by Hilleh ( 561336 )
    Are they allowed to go suicidal and have the bots detonate an EMP bomb in the middle of the ring? That would be pretty hilarious. What would Carmen Electra do then?

    "Ok....they're sitting there. It doesn't look like...OH WAIT!!.... No, no, nothings moving. False alarm. Our ratings are plummeting and...(listens into headset...No! I will not do that! (listens some more) Oh, fine. (loudly) My shirt! I believe that my shirt is falling off! Oh no!"

    *Prepares for REAL ULTIMATE offtopic moderation ;)*

    • Not at all. There are limits to what you can bring

      Here's the rules, in PDF format...

      http://www.battlebots.com/bnc_rules.asp

      But if someone had EMP, then everyone would just sheld there robot from EMP, and then it would just be added weight for the stupid robot builder who added one... :)

    • Ummm (Score:2, Insightful)

      by AndroidCat ( 229562 )
      Wouldn't a good EMP pulse also take out the recording/broadcasting equipment? (And where would be be if they couldn't cast their broads??)

      Anyone know the Smiling Guy's email address?

  • by SporkKnight ( 601491 ) on Sunday August 25, 2002 @03:38PM (#4137263)
    "Most Lame Opening Line"?

    And in this corner! He puts the "evil" in "weevil", he will make you cry, and he is not your father's can of corn....The Human Robot!

    Announcer Guy 1: That was quite a match!
    Announcer Guy 2: Thats right Guy#1! Lets go to the floor with our large chested eye-candy!

    Carmen Elektra: Hi Guys! I'm here with the winner of this match, Middle-aged car shop guy! So tell me, how were you able to pull off this exciting and lucrative win?
    Middle-aged Car Shop Guy: Uhhhhhh, I like, ran into the other guy, and the hammer thing hit it. A lot.
    Close-up of Carmen's Breasts
    Announcer Guy 1: Join us next time for another exciting edition... of Battle Breasts! uhh Bots!

    • no,no... you forgot the part where the large-chested eye-candy cuts off the middle-aged car shop guy in mid-sentence while answering her lame question.

      Man that guy might actually talk for 15 seconds and bore the sh1t out of the 13-yr-olds waiting for that next dorito ad with the hot chick to roll and make them change channels. Can't have that! Back to you, trite announcer guy #2!
  • I wonder what Jim has done to prevent what happened to Nightmare When he met the horizontal spinner Son of Wyachi.......damn that was a hit.
    • I wonder what Jim has done to prevent what happened to Nightmare When he met the horizontal spinner Son of Wyachi.......damn that was a hit.

      Yeah, or at the San francisco battlebots tournament, when Nightmare got torn into pieces [mcgrogan.net] by Warhead [mcgrogan.net].

      Champion, my ass. This whole "BattleBots" thing is a sham.
  • UGO.com chatted up contestant Jim Smentowski, creator of champion BattleBot, Nightmare.....No word yet on the rumored love-child between Smentowski and BB host, Carmen Electra.

    If by chance Carmen and Smentowski are together, and he can't "get it up", I'm sure he would then build himself one hell of an implant.
  • Many of the bot builders refer to Carmen Electra as 'Crayon' Electra in that she's not the brightest crayon in the box. In general, many battlebot builders/fans come from a technical (or at least educated) background and are not exactly thrilled seeing their sport reduced to a WWF trailer-trash theme show.

    I'd like to see more regional events. The best bet for those not wanting to put up with all the BS associated with competing at Battlebots should really try to attend one of the street fights that are springing up around the country. The rules are more relaxed and you won't have to sign away all your legal rights to your bot.

    • Oh god. If you think Battlebots is WW(F/E)ified, then run in fear from "Robot Wars: Extreme Gladiators" or whatever the hell it's called on TNN. Last night, a friend of mine said it was on. I said it was pretty weak, he said "So?" and we both watched it anyhow.

      Repeatedly I was proven -exactly- how right I was in the first place. Every bot was a really pathetic contestant compared to the ones on Battlebots, and the hosts... My god. The only way I could describe it was as Battlebots without the class. The bots sucked, the fights were -boring- as hell and the only bright spot - surprisingly - was Mick Foley formerly AKA "Mankind" doing the post-fight interviews. He also got to tell the teams who won, which was a nice touch too. As an interviewer, his major problem was screwing up the name of a bot, and still using the facial expressions you'd expect from a wrestler. He did, overall, provide a -much- better interaction with the builders. Less fluff.

      I think Battlebots needs to hire Foley, and the rest of "Robot Wars" can just go suck eggs. Even the contestants sucked. One kid looked like Brian Dennehy's "Mini-Me" and the guys who won the show all acted like wanna-be Foleys. Sad. Very sad.
      • Absolutely. As said friend, I'd like to apologize for dragging THK into that piece of drek. The bots -sucked-, none of them was able to do any real damage to any of the others, and we both spent most of the show rooting for one of the others to set the fur-covered bunnybot on fire. It's just pathetic.
        • The US robotwars truly sucks. The UK version is much better. But your right about the bots being pathetic. It's a long time complaint against Mentorn (the producers of RW) that they only allow bots in that have no chance of hurting the house robots. The teams are encouraged to dress up for TV, and the teams are also encouraged to make the bots flammable for the cameras.

          RW wetdream: Son of Whyachi vs. Sir Killalot.

          • The US robotwars truly sucks. The UK version is much better.
            Only having seen the UK version, can I just say that I find this utterly depressing? Robot Wars is truly an opportunity missed. It could genuinely be a really good programme, if they got rid of a few irritating elements. Like Craig Charles. And the house robots. And the audience. Oh, and let's not forget the stupid, stupid teams with their silly songs.
            • Too bad they can't combine Robot Wars with, say, Junkyard Wars....three teams get 10 hours to make their own demolition bots....from whatever they can find in the parts bin....now that would add a new level of interest....
              • There was an episode of junkyard wars that did this. They took 2 old V6 beaters and converted them into giant battlebots to fight in a 100 yard ring.

                Its was great at the end one tore the hell out of the axel of the other and it went careening out of control at 45mph into a dirt mound.

                If battle bots was like that I would watch every day. :-)

                Battle bots used to be much better before all the lawsuits. If your curious to see what happend to hmonigize all this then look up all the legal battles over who owned battle bots and you will see what really killed this idea.
                • Yeah...they actually did that twice as I recall...but there's rather a difference between remote controled demolition derby and machines with sledge hammers, buzz saws, and so on....now if they were attaching concrete saws to v-6's.... *drool*
                  • If I remember right they attempted 2, 1 car actually had an attack weapon attached to the roof that had a spinning chain on the top, though the weapon was rather useless. I still say not a bad job for 8 or so hours work.

                    Now if it was on the scale of battle bots and people had time to develop thier weapons we could see some real carnage.

                    Only thing is once you get to that size if you loose you bot its 20 grand down the drain as opposed to 3 - 5 grand.
  • I was just thinking, the betips.net site used to use the BeOS filesystem as a spiffy database - read about it at the site - and beos was designed from the word go to work with large multimedia projects, huge video files, that sort of thing. Might BeOS be a good platform for the sort of on-the-fly image recognition software a kick-ass autonomous battlebot would need?
  • And where the hell is the Alton Brown interview?
  • Battle bots is one of the better reasons to own a tivo. Lets face it.. There is a LOT of fluff between fights.. and some of it gets quite repetitive.. I can watch an hour battle bot show in less than 15 minutes (I also skip past the shoving matches..)

    -Jason
  • ...his experience with Gary Coleman and robotics in general.

    Gary Coleman is a robot?

  • BB Improvements? (Score:2, Interesting)

    I enjoy the Battle Bots show, in spite of the cast. What I would really like to see is the following:
    • Fights to the Death! The points system in place is entirely too subjective. Many times a relatively unknown bot loses to a popular bot after having apparently soundly beaten the popular entrant. The judging is a sham.
    • Get rid of the hazards, or make them way more powerful. Many of them are simply lame and have no hope of damaging a bot.
    • Fire Pete the hammer op guy. He goes nuts on the hammer, repeatedly pounding bots after the driver has submitted. Or he does just the opposite, and takes it easy on the popular bots.
    • Lose the girl she is boring.
    • Better weapons. Build a better arena if you have too to protect the audience. Spinners are boring, wedges are incredibly boring. The innovation in bot design is stagnating. People simply go for the known effective design. If weapon restrictions were lifted, maybe we would see some innovation once again.

    That's all. I will still watch the show, but there are many improvements that can still be made. The competition is even worse, ala' Robot Wars (the US version anyway) where the bots are piles of junk, the drivers spend most of the match crashing their bot into the arena walls because of a complete lack of driving skill, and the house bots decide almost every match.

  • Just want to say that this was interesting interview getting us to look at how him and the other builders are really in it to have fun. Some of the posters have said they don't like Carmen Electra or the overall flash of the show, but they seem to be getting a kick out of it and it's not like they take the pomp and circumstance too seriously.

    I am curious about how he feels about people going in with a less-technical mindset than himself. People are going to start bringing in pre-designed bots. There was that one kid last season who just up and bought his bot from someone else.

    (By the way, Complete Control is the most interesting bot out there, IMHO)
  • Jim's been involved in this for quite some time now. Its worth pointing to his site which has mostly up to date (a hell of a lot more up to date than battlebots.com) information on competitors and the history of robotic combat.

    Take a look at www.robotcombat.com [robotcombat.com]

  • Cool, so now I don't even have to watch any of his fights all season long - I already know that he's the champion. Thanks Slashdot for ruining Battlebots season 5!

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