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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Science > Robotics > Computers > Sports > The Great Robot Race - The Darpa Grand Challenge (Nova)

The Great Robot Race – The Darpa Grand Challenge  (Nova)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C-     Episode: B



We think of robot always as anthropomorphic (human-like) or just factory machines, but beyond that and the massive amounts of information computers can store, what about vehicles with a mind of their own?  We’re talking more than just KITT from Knight Rider, Herbie - The Love Bug or Speed Buggy, but motor vehicles that can drive themselves and without any help whatsoever.  The Great Robot Race – The Darpa Grand Challenge is a terrific installment of Nova narrated by John Lithgow who supplies some funny comments in place of vehicles that do not.


23 vehicles produced by some of the smartest minds in the country vie for a $2 Million prize that has so much on the line in terms of prestige, innovation, reputation, progress and establishing a new high watermark for getting a manless vehicle to drive across a serious distance that offers almost insane challenges to the teams building the vehicles and some of them have to bee seen to be believed.


This is another one of their nearly hour-long installments that could have gone on longer and by the end, you know a follow-up installment is very much called for.  One particular failure takes Nova to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Carnegie Mellon University is particularly puzzled by the particularly, spectacularly fatal collapse of their vehicle.  Built well, CMU is so advanced in this department that they have government contracts and even the villain in the original novel of the techno-thriller Sliver has a degree from there.  The story proceeds to investigate and Nova spells out the details in a way that is understandable and really extends to all the vehicles.  The high stakes are suddenly that much higher.


This is exciting stuff and could inspire young children to consider going into science, making it a winner just based on that, but the show has much more to offer and is one everyone will enjoy.


The letterboxed 1.78 X 1 image looks good, but the lack of anamorphic enhancement is unfortunate.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is good, but has no surrounds.  The only extra is the usual DVD-ROM printable material and weblink.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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