Shall we play a game?

Play is a natural (some say necessary) part of human development, so it's not surprising that we enjoy putting robots through through play-like paces.

One example: the RoboGames features over 50 events, including combat, kung fu, basketball,  bartending and painting. Humans remotely control the robots during some events but not all of them.

The 8th annual games will be Fri-Sun, Apr 15-17, 2011, in the SF Bay Area.

I've been to this event before and it has an science fair-meets-Ultimate Fighting Championship atmosphere. A lot of young people attend and participate. Some of the RoboContestants are designed by highly skilled engineers and cost thousands of dollars. Others are built by young hobbyist for nearly nothing.

It's hard not to be charmed by kids getting their science on, but my geeky giddiness is tempered by an ominous feeling prompted by what some of these machines can do. The shooting gallery competition, for example, is more carnival game than a war game (organizers even make a point of stating contestants should be firing ping pong balls or nerf darts, rather than projectiles that can cause harm), but this rule gives me pause.
7. The control logic may run on any platform, as long as there is no human control of the logic after the match has been started, i.e. a laptop or microcontroller can control the aiming/shooting. [emphasis added]
Programming a device to identify and hit a target on its own is as worthy of a gold medal as person who can accurately perform that task, but who can forget this scene?

RoboCop (1987)

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