What Does a Robot Look Like?
Revenge of the
FIGURE 3. Golem from
FIGURE 4. The Stepford Wives
from the 1975 movie.
how people viewed mechanical servants. Of
course, it took George Devol and Joe Engelberger
(in the 1960s) to actually build the first industrial
robot — and it looked nothing like the robots of
How do Humans
For use in plays or movies actors can depict
robots by dressing up as stiff-walking humanoids (like
the Golem of old Jewish folklore shown in Figure 3)
or appear brain-dead and beautiful like the
Stepford Wives from the 1975 film (see Figure 4).
Another way to portray a robot is to actually
make a real robot. Figure 5 shows a robot I built
for the first Revenge of the Nerds movie. (It
reminds me of a rolling salt shaker with arms.) Of
course, you can always have a person walk around
in a robot suit like the beautifully-crafted Robbie
from Forbidden Planet. Or you can design one on
a computer and duplicate enough to fill a room as
was done in the movie I-Robot. Figure 6 shows
the NS- 5 robots surrounding Will Smith.
people expect a
robot to look like.
Ask a young
kid to draw a person and the result will be a
round head atop a body usually with of two legs
and two arms like in Figure 7. Ask the same kid
to draw a robot and the result may be something
like in Figure 8 or Figure 9.
Building Your Idea
of a Robot
When planning to build a robot, many people
first decide on what they want the robot to do,
then consider the aesthetics later on. ‘Human
touches’ come a bit later after the robot
construction is in progress. Line-following, combat,
or Sumo robots built for these contests generally
take a certain form conducive to winning the
particular event. Adding any special appearance
may be just a paint job or a few LEDs. People who
build robots to roam around their homes or
neighborhoods usually add touches such as dual
arms, eyes, a mouth, and a humanoid body shape.
Why? Because no matter what, that’s what
Take Center Stage
Humanoid robots have always been in the
minds of robot designers, even before movies that
featured robots. The technology escaped the
average robot experimenter until the advent of
walking technology and balancing techniques that
used newly-developed accelerometers and multi-axis gyros. Honda’s Asimo and Korea’s Hubo have
taken center stage for the human-sized humanoid
robots, but another robot has captured world
attention: Reem B, built in 2008.
Created by Pal Technology Robotics based in
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the 132 pound
robot stands a bit under five feet tall. Though the
company is based in the UAE, the team consists
mostly of Spanish scientists working in Barcelona,
Spain and is led by Davide Faconti, 29, who is
Italian. This prototype follows an earlier REEM-A
NS- 5 robots
with Will Smith.
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