Tech Tatva’15: War and Peace
Since the emergence of civilization, humans have had the inherent need to assert their authority over others. This desire for control is also accompanied, at times, by a voyeuristic need to spectate over such dominance in public. For context, consider the use of the Roman Colosseum for exhibiting conquests and public spectacles in the first century AD. For almost a century, the Roman public gathered in thousands to witness highly trained gladiators (primarily slaves) engage in brutal bloodshed. This was an event consumed as both theatre and sport.
As ideas of basic human liberty evolved, the mainstream expression of power shifted from fellow humans onto animals, manifesting as Blood Sport.
A Blood Sport usually involves coercion of animals into an activity of aggression which could cause their death or injury. Historically, this practice has encompassed bulls, bears, dogs, rats and several other animals as its victims. In retrospect, depictions of blood sport have also found their way into pop-culture narratives/films (Amorres Perros, Aadukalam, Gladiator, etc.). Some of these events, however, exist not only as a sport, but a cultural activity. This explains the persistence of fests like Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu despite being declared illegal.
A few months ago, Megabots Inc. (the California based manufacturer of giant robots for the sole purpose of fighting) challenged its Japanese counterpart Suidobashi Heavy to a titanic duel. Could this be the next big thing in the entertainment business?
It would save animals a world of pain if they were to be replaced by robots in satiating the whims and fancies of human authority.
Closer to home, Robowars 2.0 was held as a featured event over the course of three days, as part of Tech Tatva’15. The participating demographic comprised of an all-girls contingent from a college in Andhra Pradesh and several teams from Mangalore, apart from the ones in Manipal.
The preliminary round tested the bot’s specifications and mobility. This was followed by one-on-one duels in the league stages. Like scythed chariots, the bots were fitted with rotor blades and hammering mechanisms to inflict some serious damage on opponents.
The atmosphere at KC was not very different from that of a blood sport arena. Robowars 2.0 was perhaps the only event of Tech Tatva’15 that elicited extreme emotions, with team members screaming strategies at each other during the fights and being visibly disappointed when defeated. This was probably because of the event’s directly competitive nature and the immediacy of the pressure involved.
The teams from Mangalore were intriguing, with their technically superior bots and aggressive strategies. Predictably, the title match was fiercely fought between two teams belonging to St. Joseph’s College, Mangalore. They pulled off elaborate maneuvers, turning the final into a kind of performance art. It was almost as if they belonged to a cult robot fight (“You’re the the all-singing, all-dancing scrap of the world.”) club which suddenly decided to go public.