RoboGames, the "Olympics of Robots", today announced that Grant Imahara - famous for MythBusters, BattleBots, Punkin' Chunkin', StarWars Episodes 1-3, Killer Robots, and many other TV shows and movies, will be the lead host for RoboGames 2015.
"I'm incredibly excited to be returning to RoboGames," said Imahara. "There's nothing like experiencing the sights and sounds of a live robot combat event. As a former competitor, robot combat is near and dear to my heart. I enjoy the mix of creativity and mayhem that are essential to this sport. Being able to share it with new audiences and future generations is a huge bonus."
RoboGames was started in 2004 to showcase all different aspects of robot competitions, from 220 pound combat robots fighting behind bulletproof glass to 25 gram sumo robots no bigger than a quarter. There are 56 different events in total, with such diverse competitions as humanoid robots that play soccer and do kung-fu, maze solving robots, hockey bots, and events with GPS guided cars that navigate outdoor terrains without any human control. RoboGames even supports STEM education with 7 different events just for kids under 18 to show their stuff. Each competition is treated equally in the end, with the same gold, silver, and bronze medals on the line - but robot combat remains the big draw. And how could it not, with 220 pound robots spewing flames, slamming 100 pound spinning blades into one inch thick armor, and flipping opponents into the air like they were nerf balls.
Imahara points out that while many people think robot combat went away after the TV shows were gone, the events never stopped just because they weren't being aired. "The general public perception is that fighting robots were popular, and then went away for a long time, but in reality, there have been live robot combat events happening continuously since 1994. And all the while, the robots have been getting better and meaner and tougher."
Ray Billings competes every year with the most destructive robot in the show 'Last Rites.' It's a 220 pound robot whose weapon could liquefy a human in seconds, and does a pretty decent job of doing the same to his titanium opponents. Billings, a retired prison guard, goes to show how diverse the field of contestants can be.
"Real men don't have hobbies, they have obsessions. And this one's mine," jokes Billings, who's looking forward to the annual event and creating as much carnage in the arena as he possibly can. "It's like a dysfunctional family reunion. We get together once a year and break each other's toys."
RoboGames 2015 will be held Friday through Sunday, April 3rd-5th, and all aspects are being taped for release in both DVD and streaming media, with a focus on the 220 pound heavyweight "ComBots" that are the audience favorite. The ComBots are so powerful that the fights must be held in a 100,000 pound arena behind two-ply, bullet-proof lexan sheets. A minimum of 13 episodes are set for release, with video being shot for as many as 26 episodes for this season's international event. Negotiations are underway for a streaming provider to exclusively show the finished episodes. Tickets to the live event are available to purchase on-line at RoboGames.net, and the public event is expected to sell out, as in years' past.
Although registration hasn't even closed, there are already 26 heavyweight ComBots set to compete, and 432 robots total registered. It expected that when registration closes in March, there will be over 800 robots competing. Currently registered robots are coming from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Estonia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, the UK, and of course the USA.
One of the great aspects of the sport is that it is not limited to professional engineers. As Imahara points out, "the awesome thing is that anyone can participate in robot combat. It's is a sport that requires no formal training to enter. You can be a school teacher, a car mechanic, a plumber, or just a garage tinkerer. As long as your robot meets the safety requirements, you can get in there and kick some 'Bot'."
This is true across all events, ages, and genders. Most people presume this to be a men's club of professional engineers, yet there are a number of girls and women who compete at RoboGames. At the last event, the Brazilian robot "Touro Light" was the #1 ranked lightweight ComBot going into the tournament. Driven by 26 year old PhD candidate Daniel Freitas, it seemed invincible and was heavily favored to take the gold. Yet it was defeated in the quarter-final round by Hannah Rucker, who was only 8 years old at the time. That's not a typo for 18. She was eight. And she knocked him out - eliminating the "beast from Brazil" from the medal rounds. She then went on to win the bronze. She's now ten years old and returning with both a lightweight and a heavyweight ComBot.
"I was amazed when I won a medal at the last RoboGames because there were so many other people who were older and more experienced," said Rucker. "I'm so excited about coming back this year, but I'm also nervous because I'll be driving a heavyweight for the first time. I can't wait to fight again and see my friends!"
She wasn't the only young female engineer racking up medals. Sylvia Todd, now 14, won a silver medal in 2013 for her painting robot and went on to show her robot and medal to President Obama at the White House.
"I am so excited for RoboGames 2015!" said Todd, who is also known for her youtube shows as Super Awesome Sylvia. "So much nostalgia from my first time competing, cool robots, meeting amazing people. I mean seriously, there are robots that are spewing fire and have spinning blades going 100 mph on them. Who wouldn't be excited? I can't wait!!!"
RoboGames is still accepting companies looking to sponsor the event, with many opportunities for exposure to both the on-site audience as well as the later video release.