Ask anyone to think of Robotic Combat and you will be told just what little time the man in the street has for Star Wars these days, yet right here on planet Earth things are moving towards a time where machines will compete with one another and against humans.

Currently the organisers of Robocop are looking forward to the day when eleven machines, built to look like footballers, walk out onto a pitch and play whatever nation currently holds the world cup, probably Brazil.

Robots - not remote controlled vehicles, but actual machines-are currently being developed to find land mines and either deactivate them or at least mark their locations. Other machines are searching for survivors in earthquake simulations. The machines are not coming; they are already here.

Yet one sport has remained in the public eye and not always for the right reasons.

In 1992 Robot Wars was born. Marc Thorp, an American who worked for a division of Lucasfilm tried to come up with a robotic vacuum cleaner.

It did not work; however, he fitted a chainsaw to it and suddenly people were interested. More and more machines were built and soon the designs began to become more and more violent and futuristic. Soon, fighting took place between the machines and by 1994 a full-fledged event was under way in San Francisco.

There had been funding difficulties, and these were apparently solved by a A Long term competitor in Robot Warspartnership with a New York record company. Looks, however, prove to be deceiving. Caleb Chung, whose Furby helped spark many a toy store brawl, and "SimCity" creator Will Wright, were among those first historic participants.The problem came in 1997 when the record company, within its contractual rights, sold the idea to the BBC in the UK and the show that has become a staple of many an evening's discussion and debate, was born. The problem stemmed from the fact that Thorp was not included as part of the development of the show.

Thus began a war of words between the US and UK robot builders. The Americans had Battlebots and the UK had Robot Wars. The split resulted in competitions failing and
the stagnation of both fields. The main reason was that once you had joined one organization you were not allowed to take your robot or machine elsewhere.

That was then; this is now.

Battlebots is still looking for a home. It has been off the air for almost two years now and Robot Wars, despite its move to Channel Five in the UK, has done little to promote the lower order of machines in favour of the established teams and their efforts.

That has not stopped the competitors having a try at making things work. In the UK, there's the Fighting Robots Association, which can be found at This group offers advice and details regarding the many shows that are being held throughout the UK. Other listing sites for American events are also available.

So, is there a future for the sport of robotic combat?

Yes, of course there is. However, will it be a fringe activity or will interest in this unusual activity ever take off again?

These events have had exposure on television, but it will take time to see if
the machines being developed now are ever able to become as popular as those that have been given the oxygen, not of publicity, but of success.

The show itself was just that, a TV show. Make no mistakes, however. Robot Combat is a sport and it is here to stay.