Posts Tagged ‘Ro-Busters’

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas Robot Being Put Through Its Paces

February 24, 2016

This is a fascinating piece of footage showing Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot being tested. It’s a bipedal robot, with two arms, and the video shows it walking about, picking up boxes and placing them on shelves, It can also follow the boxes when they’re moved out of its way or reach, and right itself when its pushed over. It’s an impressive display of robot engineering.

From the look of it, Boston Dynamics were the manufacturers of the ‘Big Dog’ robot, which was supposed to help carry loads for the US military. This ended up being cancelled because its electric motors were too noisy for the covert missions for which the machine was intended to be used. I’m sure Atlas has been designed with a military role or disaster relief in mind, very much like Hammerstein, Rojaws, Mek-Quake and their metal pals in Robusters and ABC Warriors. We’re not quite there yet, and I have real qualms about the use of this technology. Not so much in the fears about Terminator-style robots running amok to exterminate humanity, but simply of the process of mechanisation replacing human workers. I’ve noticed that in shops and cinemas, the self-service machines are being used to replace human staff, and this process is likely to continue until about 1/3 of service sector jobs are lost in the next 20 years. Or at least, they will according to current projections. The end result will be Mega-City One, sprawling conurbations with a 95% unemployment rate due to robots replacing humans in just about all areas of employment.

One of the reasons historians and sociologists have put forward to explain why modern science did not arise in ancient Greece, the Islamic world and China, is that despite the immense inventiveness of these cultures, they only made limited use of the technological advances made by their natural philosophers and artisans. Both the Chinese and Islamic engineers produced automata. In China, there was an automaton serving girl constructed in the 9th century AD, which went round filling people’s tea bowls. The ancient Greeks invented a toy mechanical theatre, singing mechanical birds, and an automatic hand cleaner to allow visitors to the temples to wash their hands. In Islam, al-Jazari and the Banu Musa brothers similarly produced automata. These systems were, with exceptions, not applied to industry, but used as toys to amuse the upper classes. I think at certain times a brake was deliberately applied, because they feared the social disruption such developments might bring. It’s a Luddite attitude, but as the world faces mass unemployment through mechanisation, one that we should possibly appreciate as wiser than it appears.

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Mek Quake’s for Real Brother

December 6, 2015

This is awesome! I’ve blogged about robots and how they compare to fictional machines from the pages of 2000 AD, such as ‘Ro-Busters’, ‘ABC Warriors’ and ‘Robohunter’. This looks like something very much from creators of Ro-Busters/ ABC Warriors, but it was in fact absolutely rule. It’s the largest robot every built.

Mek Quake's Brother

I found it on 1000 Natural Shocks, which reblogged it in turn from Tanks-a-Lot. The legend with the photo states that, the robot was called the Beetle. It says

The Beetle was a robot designed for the Air Force Special Weapons Centre, initially to service and maintain a planned fleet of atomic-powered Air Force bombers, according to declassified Air Force reports, work began on the Beetle in 1959, and it was completed in 1961. It was 19 feet long, 12 feet wide, 11 feet high and weighed a ground-shaking 77 tons. The pilot was shielded by an inch of steel armour on the outside of the unit, half-an-inch inside and a minimum of 12 inches of lead plating around the cabin, which would keep him shielded from all but the most intense blasts of radiation. On top of all that, the cockpit glass was 23 inches thick, and was made up of seven individual panes of leaded glass. it was built on a M42 duster chassis, powered by a 500hp engine and had a top speed of 8 miles per hour, speed had been traded off for power, the robot’s bulk meaning it had 85,000 pounds of pull in its arms. Yet despite this raw power, it could also perform incredibly delicate operations. At a public demonstration in 1962, for example, the Beetle was able to roll up to a carton of eggs (pictured up top), pick a single egg up and hold it in its pincers without breaking it. when the atomic aircraft project was cancelled in 1961, it was earmarked by the US military for a role in cleaning up the debris caused by a nuclear explosion but that would have required a more active deployment, something its size, weight and most crucially unwieldiness (as in, taking several minutes for a pilot to get in and out) simply could not stand up to. It’s unknown what ultimately became of the Beetle.

It had a human operator in a cab, but otherwise it looks very much like the kind of giant, construction/ demolition robots, of which MekQuake was one.

Terrameks

The Terrameks, an army of demolition robots, prepare to destroy the fictional British town of Northpool. From the ‘Robusters’ back-up strip in Sam Slade, Robohunter, No. 3., December 1986. Script Pat Mills, Art Dave Gibbons.

It really should have had a mind of its own, although of extremely low intelligence, and shouted ‘Big Jobs!’ when it flattened something.

Warning: 1000 Natural Shocks is over-18s only.

The Beginning of Ro-Busters for Real?

February 7, 2015

I found this story on Sky News today at http://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/other/humanoid-robot-firefighter-tested-by-us-navy/ar-AA91Hqb?ocid=OIE9HP, reporting the testing of a 5′ 11″ humanoid robot by the American navy. It’s an android fireman, and it’s hoped that it will help stop having to send real human firefighters into extremely dangerous situations.

Robusters Cover

Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and friends

This sounds like the beginning of Ro-Busters to me.

Ro-Busters is a long-running strip in the SF comic, 2000 AD. It’s about a team of robot emergency workers sent in to tackle disasters that are far too hazardous for humans. The main characters are Ro-Jaws, a somewhat crude sewerdroid, and Hammerstein, a former soldier robot left over from the Volgan Wars. Hammerstein, known in his glory days in the ABC Warriors as ‘Old Red Eyes’, has been mentally scarred by his experiences, and suffers flashbacks and depression. He can, however, be cheered up by being given his old head to hold, which usually prompts him to start telling another tale of his military adventures.

Howard Quartz

The group is owned by Howard Quartz, aka ‘Mr 10 Per Cent’, a multi-billionaire businessman and highly shady character, so called because some kind of accident has left him only 10 per cent human. He’s now just a human brain in a robot body, though show that he’s still a member of the British business class by sporting a bowler hat and brolly. Well, you gotta keep up appearances in front of the staff and the proles, haven’t you?

Mek Quake

Ten Per Cent is an extremely harsh taskmaster, and any robot that fails to meet his extremely high performance targets is sent on a one-way journey down to Mek-Quake. This is a giant, sadistic, but immensely stupid robot bulldozer, who tears his victims apart, all the while shouting ‘Big jobs! Big jobs!’ as he does so. While the robot’s brains are discarded, Mek-Quake retains their bodies as a kind of wardrobe. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein have been sent down to meet him many times, but manage to outwit him, which has made the machine even more desperate to get its grabs into them.

The original idea for the strip was to have a group of robots ‘doing Biggles-type things, like capping volcanoes’ and so on. The strip’s creators, including the veteran comic writer, Pat Mills, took this basic idea and gave it their own, countercultural and anti-authoritarian spin. The robots themselves are courageous with a strong sense of justice. They are, however, slaves, whose very lives hang in the balance according to how their boss feels, and whether their actions match his expectations and balance sheet that day. 10 Per Cent is a very shady character with a background in arms dealing.

It’s repeatedly shown how badly robots are treated, as non-human slaves, by humans. In one story in the 1980s, Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein along with a group of other robots, including a mechanic doctor called Doctor Feeley-Good, attempted to escape, to flee to a free robot colony on one of Saturn’s Moons. The robots there had been gold miners, but had rebelled against their human masters and defeated them all. As a sign of their freedom, they coated themselves in gold.

Robuster disaster

Through Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and the mechanical comrades, Mills and O’Neil, one of the strip’s artists, explored issues such as corporate power and greed, the British class system, and racism and slavery. All packed into a strip, which had our heroes sent into rescue people trapped in mile-high skyscrapers that had been hit by cargo rockets taking nuclear waste into space, or down into the London Underground to save the passengers in trains. Running through the strip was a subversive sense of humour, which saw Ro-Jaws shouting ‘knickers’ at various points, and scrawling his own rebellious graffiti to take their enemies down a peg or two. In this mechanical double act, Hammerstein was the straight man, vainly trying to keep his errant friend in line and make him behave with at least some decorum.

I don’t believe that the robot now being tested by the American navy is up to the standards of the sentient machines of SF just yet. I think it’ll be a long time, if ever, before they are. But it’s an intriguing development, nonetheless.

As for Ro-Busters, I do feel it would make an excellent movie. MSN news reported at the beginning of the year that there are 25 movies based on comic strips coming out this year. We’ve already had robot heroes in several movies, most obviously transformers, but also Wall-E, and going back to the ’50s, a film starring Robbie the Robot from Forbidden Planet. It would be great if Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein and their mechanical chums also got a chance at the limelight. Eh, humes?