Friday, April 17, 2009

My picks for Robot Hall of Fame this year: Transformers and Terminator

Every year about this time, the Robot Hall of Fame announces its latest inductees. The honorees include both real robots from science and industry and fictional robots that have inspired future engineers and researchers.
CNet, a unit of CBS, recently made its choices for the top five “coolest movie robots” and “best TV robots.”
Several of those top robots already have made it into the Robot Hall of Fame, which was established in 2003 by the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
CNet’s picks for the top five coolest movie robots are, in ascending order: Maria from “Metropolis” (1927), Marvin the Paranoid Android from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (2005), Robby the Robot from “Forbidden Planet” (1956), Johnny-5 from “Short Circuit” (1986), and the pairing of R2-D2 and C-3PO from “Star Wars” (1977).
CNet’s choices for the five best TV robots are, in ascending order: Rosie the Robot from “The Jetsons” (1962-63 and 1985-87), Robot from “Lost in Space” (1965-68), Cylon from “Battlestar Galactica” (1978-80 and 2003-2009), Bender from “Futurama” (1999-2003 and 2008-present), and Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994).
Of those CNet picks, five are in the Robot Hall of Fame – Maria, Robby the Robot, R2-D2, C-3PO and Data.
Other fictional robots in the hall are HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), Astro Boy from the Japanese show “Astro Boy” (1963-66), Gort from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951), and David the android child from “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence” (2001).
Here’s my list of the top five fictional robots that aren’t already in the Robot Hall of Fame:

  1. Transformers – These “robots in disguise” likely got a lot of kids interested in engineering with cars, trucks and other vehicles that transform into humanoid robots. I’d induct all the Transformers at once – heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons. That way you cover all the favorite characters: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, etc. Transformers have been popular as toys, comic books, cartoons, and movies.

  2. Terminator – Once again, I’d induct the whole class of robots known as Terminators. That includes the original Arnold Schwarzenegger model and different models from the movies and TV series.

  3. Wall-E – Disney Pixar’s animated film “Wall-E” (2008) showed a future where robots do our dirty work and take care of our every need. It also was a touching romance between two lonely robots (Wall-E and Eve).

  4. Cylons – Yet again, I’d induct all the Cylons from “Battlestar Galactica.” That includes the original chrome Centurions from the 1978-80 TV series, the reimagined Centurion “toasters” and the humanoid “skin-jobs” of 2003-09 TV series.

  5. Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) – KITT is the Pontiac Trans Am controlled by a computer with artificial intelligence from the 1982-86 TV series “Knight Rider.” Let’s just forget the follow-ups and remakes. Who wouldn’t want a talking car that can chauffeur you around and give you personal advice?
Runners up include Robot from “Lost in Space,” Rosie the Robot from “The Jetsons,” Nomad from “Star Trek” the original series (1967), Bishop from “Aliens” (1986) , Gunslinger (played by Yul Brynner) from Michael Crichton’s “Westworld” (1973), and Huey, Dewey & Louie from “Silent Running” (1972).
The Transformers and Terminator robots would be good choices this year since both have big-budget summer movies coming out. “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” opens on June 24. “Terminator: Salvation” is out May 21.

You can vote for your favorite robots or nominate ones not listed at the Robot Hall of Fame Web site. The list of nominees needs to be cleaned up however. It contains a lot of duplicate entries and some that are already in the hall of fame.
The 2009 inductees to the Robot Hall of Fame are scheduled to be announced on Tuesday.

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