Fight! Robot, Fight! The Amateur Robotics Movement in the United States

The study of Robotics was once the exclusive realm of elite research universities and corporations. The costs and logistics of building, programming, and maintaining a robotics platform in past generations were too high for the hobbyist or independent researcher. Over the last decade this has radically changed. Amateur robotics clubs are thriving, and knowledge generated by the robotics and AI research projects of the past, is now converging with the home and amateur robotics movement through inexpensive robotics platforms such as the Lego® Mindstorms™kits. In addition to this, robot fighting leagues have also become very popular wherein participant build ingenious machines of destruction, which they operate via telerobotics in mock gladiatorial combat. The convergence of high-tech expertise with the home and amateur user presents a fascinating case study of the successful introduction of AI technologies into our everyday lives. We will look at how home users and hobbyists are creatively reshaping AI technology and identify the social values that are impacting, and being impacted by, the development of the home robotics community. In this paper I will review some of the recent developments in the home robotics movement that point towards greater collaborative research in robotics across cultures and between professional and hobbyist.