Last night I watched one of the more entertaining new shows I’ve seen on SyFy in some time. Hosted by Chris Jericho (WWE, Fozzy), teams of two ordinary citizens gain control of a Robot, enter into a ring, and battle it out against another Robot team.
I don’t know if you young ‘uns are familiar with this toy, but when we were kids, we had something called ‘Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em Robots‘. It was a plastic board with two robots, Red & Blue, and controlers that let you move and punch your robot opponent. The idea was to get in a nice uppercut and pop off the opponent’s robot head. It was a fun game. Well, ‘Rock ’Em, Sock ’Em Robots‘ has just met the 21st Century!
The Robots are massive, 8 – 10 feet tall mega-machines of pistons, heavy metal, wires, and circuitry – each with special features (longer reach, cage body armor) that make them unique. They are controlled by a team of two, one in a captains’ chair that dictates walking, turning and direction. The other is strapped into an avatar arm and shoulder harness (called the exo-suit), and every punch jab and movement they make in this harness is digitally transmitted to the Robot. The team member swings his arm, the Robot punches. It’s not just a standard pre-programmed punch either – If the team member does a roundhouse punch, an uppercut, a side shot to the body, the robot follows. A similar concept can be seen in the movie Real Steel but this is the concept taken into a practical application for weekly competition. The system and Robots are the brainchild of robotics expert Mark Setrakian.
In this episode, the underdogs, a father-daughter team had to go against the best competitors, an Olympic athlete and his tech. partner, in the ring. In the first round, the father-daughter team’s robot, Crash was severely damaged and had no use of its left arm. Between rounds, they have 20 minutes to repair the robot, which they did, or they would have to forfeit. They came out in the second round pummeling team Cyclone with punches to the body (frame) and in the last seconds of the battle Crash broke off its own hand delivering the fatal blow that incapacitated Cyclone in a spray of sparks and hydraulic fluid.
I gotta’ tell you, it was exciting, appealing to my boyish machismo and sci-fi mentality simultaneously. In this episode, there was a lot of introduction and explanation of how the robots work. I’m hoping in future episodes they have two matches instead of one, because that is where the real excitement is found.
Either way, I think I’ve found something that I will enjoy, at least for the season.