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[DPRG] Micro Robots: A modest proposal

Subject: [DPRG] Micro Robots: A modest proposal
From: Ray Renteria ray at troux.com
Date: Fri Nov 1 11:46:00 CST 2002

> > When you hold a public event, do you do it for the spectators or the
> > competitors.  If it is only for the competitors, then why make it a
public
> > event? 
> 
> Why indeed?  
> 
> Some might argue that Pete is confusing the advancement of hobby 
> robotics with the entertainment industry, but they would miss the 
> larger issue.  

I don't think he's confusing it at all.  Additionally, "they" aren't
likely to miss the point they seek: entertainment--and there ain't nothin' 
wrong with that--not even (*especially*) if they're willing to pay for it.

What value do robots have for robot hobbyists?  They provide a medium to 
show off, gain technical edification and to entertain. Collectively, it 
equates to the entertainment of the 'bot builder.  I even recall reading a 
message that The Esteemed David P. Anderson posted a while back advising 
more advanced engineering in order to increase the entertainment value of 
a 'bot.  (Subj: [DPRG] live horse, Sent: Fri 9/13/2002 9:49AM)  Which,
by the way, I wholeheartedly agree with.  This emphasizes the point
that a 'bot built to entertain isn't necessarily dumb.  As a matter
of fact, it's usually a bigger challenge to build an autonomous 'bot
that will entertain.

Non-robotypes see a sort of magic in 'bots that can navigate without
hitting obstacles, respond to verbal commands, or speak! To us, a robot
simply logic manifesting itself physically. To "them," a robot is a living 
mechanical thing doing what it does.  Rodney Brooks put it best in
his paper, "Intelligence Without Reason" where he stated, "Intelligence 
is in the eye of the beholder."  If they're entertained by our 'bots, 
then so be it.  Let's make some money!  There's *NOTHING* vulgar about
that.  (Just ask any of the DPRG competition sponsors.)

For purely academic competitions, I love Dave Hylands's recommendation:

> Take two identical robots (as identical as possible, say two Mark III's).
> 
> Your mission: Write the best mini sumo program that you can.
> 
> Programs get downloaded and the robots fight away.

Clearly, this would be a programming competition.  Some could argue that
you could perform the same competition in a virtual environment. In either 
case, they're just implementation details.  The point is that if you don't
seek to entertain, then competitions could be held at regular DPRG meetings;
but then again, the sponsors wouldn't be too thrilled about that, builders 
wouldn't get to show off in front of larger crowds, and the group wouldn't
be exposed to as many member prospects.

> Now if you are offended by these admittedly vulgar suggestions, you 
> might perhaps console yourself with the thought that the huge sums 
> of money raised from these events will go a long way toward paying 
> for whatever clever serious robot inventions you may be nurturing
> in your quiet little workshop.  Think about it.

Sarcasm wiped away, I've thought about it.  I have two things to say:

  1. Amen!
  2. God bless the U.S.A.!

--Ray



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