Robot Wars Wiki

"Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at Sheffield University and the only judge to appear in every series of Robot Wars, Professor Noel Sharkey is also a co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics. The Irish born computer scientist also chairs ‘The International Committee of Robot Arms Control’ as well as meetings at the UN in Geneva and New York about the developments in the world of robotics for use by military and police. His work was funded for six years by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council as a full time Senior Media Fellow to take robotics to the public and explain the reality of what Robots could actually do. Professor Sharkey holds a doctorate in Psychology and a doctorate in Science. He is also a chartered Electrical Engineer, a Chartered information Technology professional. He was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Rooke Medal for Public Engagement, and is also a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, British Computer Society and Royal Institute of Navigation."
— The Robot Wars website on Professor Noel Sharkey

Professor Noel Sharkey is a British computer scientist from Belfast and Coleraine, Northern Ireland. He is best known for his appearances as a judge on the robot combat television series Robot Wars, and as a "techspert" on Techno Games. Sharkey is often considered to be "head judge", specifically taking on that role in Series 8-10.

Robot Wars[]

Noel Sharkey in Series 1

Professor Noel Sharkey is the only judge to have featured in every Robot Wars series so far, including the international versions. In Series 8, he was specifically referred to as head judge.

Noel Sharkey in the pit with Smith and Wilson during Series 5

Noel Sharkey with the Series 6 Judges

Sharkey's role on the original run of Robot Wars was mostly non-speaking, but Sharkey made a limited number of speaking appearances on the show. These included; interviews with Jonathan Pearce in Robot Wars: The Sixth Wars a chat with the competing teams before the Tag Team Terror in Extreme requesting a fair fight and stating that he could not be bribed before accepting cakes from Team Nemesis; consultation from Philippa Forrester concerning the Judges' decision after 259 fought Wild Thing, where he defended Wild Thing's victory while expressing disappointment at 259's loss; expressing the legality of Tornado's bar spinner in the Sixth Wars Grand Final.

Noel Sharkey in the pit with the Series 8 judges

As of Series 8, Noel Sharkey gained more of a speaking role on the show. Sharkey or one of his fellow Judges would sometimes be interviewed after a Judges' decision or an important match, commenting on the battle, and often explaining the reasoning behind a Judges' decision. Dara Ó Briain also interviewed Noel Sharkey in Heat 1 of Series 8 about the advancements of robotics during the time Robot Wars was off-air. Sharkey talked about HARDOX armour and the use of drones in bars.

Noel Sharkey, in his own words, experienced the 'worst moment of his career' on Robot Wars: Extreme Warriors, when the judges awarded a victory to Tornado over Razer in the International Championship, based on damage to Tornado in the form of a loose weapon motor that Sharkey at the time believed was one of Razer's wheels.

Noel Sharkey with Team Dutch Robot Girls

Sharkey actively used Robot Wars as a platform to encourage women to involve themselves in engineering. Examples of this include a tweet alongside Team Dutch Robot Girls, Team Ms Nightshade and the Brentwood School Roboteers using the hashtag #9percentisnotenough.[1]

In Series 9-10, in his role as head judge, Sharkey was responsible for pressing a button to begin the immobilisation countdown timer[2], a measure taken to avoid debating the immobility of a robot, as was the case with Ironside3 and Beast's losses in Series 8. During Series 10, Sharkey drove Rusty, an antweight version of Foxic, owned by Anthony of Team S.Tek.[3]

Other televised media[]

Noel Sharkey held a prominent role in all four series of Techno Games, alongside Martin Smith, where he was given the title of 'techspert'. Philippa Forrester and Jayne Middlemiss would consult the two for opinions on the competing robots, and explanations on how they work, sometimes including predictions. Sharkey's role as a Robot Wars judge was commonly referenced on Techno Games.

Sharkey co-hosted Bright Sparks, a science and engineering challenge series, for BBC Northern Ireland. He also produces and presents a weekly radio show for community radio station Sheffield Live called The Sound of Science.

Sharkey has made many other television appearances including 10 episodes of What would happen if? (National Geographic Channel), Blue Peter, CBBC, Dara Ó Briain's Science Club, The Big Questions, BBC News, Sky News, News Night, and The One Show, and many overseas appearances including television in China, Egypt, the USA, and around Europe.


Noel Sharkey at the time of Robot Wars' original run

Sharkey is now Emeritus Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield where he is also Emeritus Professor of Public Engagement.

He is co-founder and chair elect of the NGO: International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC) and a principle spokesperson for the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots a large coalition of 54 international NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Nobel Women's initiative and Pugwash. They have made strong headway at the United Nations about regulating the use of robots in war.

Sharkey is also co-founder and co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics with the aim of promoting the responsible design, development, implementation, and policy of robots embedded in our society.

Academic matters[]

Sharkey is an interdisciplinary academic holding fellowships at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the British Computer Society, the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Royal Society of Arts,He is a chartered electrical engineer, a chartered information technology professional and a member of both the experimental psychology society and equity. He holds a PhD in experimental psychology/cognitive science, an honorary Doctorate of Science (DSc) and an honorary doctorate in Information Science.

In the academic world, Sharkey is best known for his contribution to machine learning and cognitive science, artificial intelligence and robotics writing more than 150 academic articles and books. He has worked in the US at Yale AI labs and Stanford Psychology Dept and in the UK at Essex dept Language and Linguistics, Exeter, Computer Science dept and Sheffield Computer Science dept.

As well as his scientific writing Sharkey has written for the likes of the Guardian, the Telegraph as well as magazines like New Scientist and the Wall Street Journal magazine.

Sharkey's other contributions include the setting up of robot competitions for young people around the world (including the national Chinese creative robotics contest, and the national Egyptian schools Artificial Intelligence and robotics contest), and the development of exciting state-of-the-art robotic museum exhibitions.

He has also written and spoken widely concerning the ethical responsibilities of governments and international organisations in a world where robotics applications are dramatically increasing (both in the military and policing contexts, and in the care of children, the elderly and the sick).