I watched "Real Steel" over the weekend and it was surprisingly good. The father/son story more than made up for the surreal sport of robot boxing.

There were so many weird flaws in the fictional robot boxing system that it would be pointless to review them here. However, the premise was interesting enough to lead me to think that robot vs. human boxing would be a useful and fascinating milestone for robotics, just as computer vs. human chess and "Jeopardy!" have been for computing.

For a robot and a human to have a meaningful boxing match together, the robot would have to be meet several difficult criteria:

  • Match the human's weight class, including the power supply
  • Understand and obey the basic rules of boxing
  • Be human-like in exterior composition (i.e., no metallic surfaces that would interfere with the human's strikes)
  • Operate autonomously without human controllers
  • Operate without an umbilical connection long enough for a boxing match

Building a robot that meets these criteria while at the same time being fast and strong enough to challenge a human would be quite a feat of engineering and is certainly beyond our current capabilities. If I had the money, I'd create an X-Prize in this domain.

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