Thursday, January 22, 2009

Modern gladiator

Yesterday evening, I watched a fascinating TV documentary about the early history of the Roman city of Lutetia, known since the 4th century as Paris. The arena still exists, in a quiet corner of greenery in the heart of the Latin Quarter.

In the heyday of Lutetia, this arena was used constantly for combats between gladiators and wild animals. Today, the outlines of the antechambers and cages are clearly visible. Among the gladiators, there was a brave and agile fellow known as a retiarius who fought with nothing more than a net and a trident. He had no shield and his only armor was a fragment of metal or leather protecting the upper part of his arm that held his three-pronged weapon.

This morning, I was intrigued to hear of the presentation of a Japanese robot, designed to protect industrial premises, which is capable of behaving a little like a retiarius. The following photo shows the robot confronted by a man who's playing the role of an intruder, and hurling a net at him:

When the robot detects the presence of a human intruder, it phones its master to let him know that it may have run into a bad guy. If the robot's master tells it to attack, the robot throws its net over the intruder, entangling him. From that point on, I'm not quite sure of what might happen next. The Japanese manufacturer has refrained from providing information concerning the device's endgame, but I would imagine that traditions are respected, and that the robot is armed with a concealed trident.

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