AI isn't really the issue, remote control doesn't really detract from the spectacle of machines beating the **** out of each other, and most practical applications would work with remote control, preprogrammed actions, and some basic behavior heuristics that are already pretty well established. (But who cares about practical applications? We all know making them fight will be way more popular).
Stability is the real hurdle. The robots on this show are bolted to racks and literally wheeled up to each other for fights.
Asimo is pretty stable, but still can't stand up to an impact and can't get back up if it falls. Four legged robots are in better shape, though. The LS3 Big Dog can take a grenade hit standing, and if it is tipped over it can stand back up as long as it has three working legs. The inventors claim if it were made heavier and armored it could fight a bull, and I've been waiting two years now for them to put their money where their mouth is.
Yes, they are connected to T Bars in the back, but it does more than keep them upright. It also supplies fresh hydraulic fluid, as well as power. God knows the power needed to keep those things moving must be massive, and would detract from the body design if it was built in. They aren't doing any Kung Fu in the ring for sure, but it's still pretty bad ass. Thanks to the motion control exo-skeleton, the robots can duck and dodge a little. I know right now it seems a little clunky, but I'm sure as the technology develops a little more, this is going to be one hell of a sport.
The full first episode is online at syfy.com right now. Go watch that fight and tell me it isn't one of the most exciting things you've seen in reality TV in a long time.
That show looks like a high tech version of Rockem Sockem Robots, it's quite a spectacle but not really the same as completely functional robots.
AI software, voice recognition and object recognition software is already quite advanced so that isn't the real issue.
Power source is the drawback in robot designs, those stage robots are not self contained they are powered and controlled externally. The LS3 Big Dog and the Legged Squad Support System are powered by an internal combustion engine which is a power source that probably wouldn't be practical for a household robot. Barring radical improvements in compact battery capacity, robots would not be operable for times long enough for them to be useful unless a compromise of the machines being tethered to the house by a power cord is considered acceptable. Future home designs might include electromagnetic transduction grids built into floors etc to power these machines, but then comes the health risks of constant exposure to electromagnetic fields to the homes living occupants.
The time for robots to be commonplace isn't too far off, but we aren't there yet and short of the development of a microreactor to power these things we still have a bit of waiting to do.
I think the recent discovery of Graphene as a super capacitor could help the problem here. Although obviously an 8 foot tall robot weighing a little more than a ton will need more power than that, anything meant for household application could probably get away with it. A house equipped with lots of solar panels could charge the graphene battery in a few minutes, and depending on the size, weight, and function of the robot, could most likely last through the day.
I agree with you that we're still a little far off, but damn if this isn't a cool step forward. What better way to design and test functioning bipedal bots, than to pit them against each other?
I'll agree that an arena system would be a cool way to develop and test the mechanics of these machines as long as they are remotely controlled by a human operator, but when it comes time to develop and implement AI control systems for robots I should hope that designing them for combat is the last thing anyone considers.