Bionic Boppers put people in the fightin' robot's seat
By Ben Coxworth
November 10, 2011
Simpsons-watchers may recall an episode in which Bart and Homer enter their homebuilt robot in a Robot Wars-like competition, but mayhem ensues and Homer ends up having to operate the fighting 'bot from inside its body. Its hard to say if the creators of Hammacher Schlemmer's Bionic Bopper Cars ever saw that episode, but it's entirely possible, as the basic idea is pretty much the same - two human operators each sit inside of a big wheeled robot, then pummel each other with their robots' arms.
The people are protected by steel cages, and operate their robot's pneumatic arms independently, using two thumb-trigger-equipped joysticks. Tire treads on the "fists" keep the robots from seriously damaging one another.
Each operator tries to land punches on the opposing robot's head, causing it to snap back. Points are awarded for every successful head-snap, with a display on the front of each robot keeping a tally. Rubber bumpers on the bottom of the robots serve to protect their fiberglass and aluminum chassis, but also keep the robots far enough apart that they can get in some good swings at one another.
The robots are each propelled by a Honda gas engine, which allows them to move forward or backward - or spin left or right - at a maximum speed of 3 mph (4.8 km/h). One tank of gas is said to be good for about five hours of sparring. Presumably, the use of gas engines means that the robots must be operated outdoors. Even then, however, one has to wonder how much carbon monoxide will be sucked back by the operators.
Interested parties can order their own Bionic Bopper Cars from Hammacher Schlemmer, at a price of US$17,000 for a pair.