A major area of robot research and development comes under the category of biomimetics, or biomimicry, which looks to nature for inspiration. Some robots resemble different kinds of animals. For example, Boston Dynamics' Cheetah has broken legged-robot speed records at 18mph. (It can't match a real cheetah's 70mph.) The company is well known for its pioneering development of robots that use motions based on animals to run and maneuver, such as the BigDog.
Many robots modeled after animals are developed for military and first-responder applications. They can be based on insects, like the University of California, Berkeley's OctoROACH; worms, like MIT's Inchworm; and even jellyfish, like Virginia Tech's Robojelly. Many have similar applications, and some have similar funding sources. They are designed for reconnaissance, surveillance, and the ability to go where humans can't -- sometimes in tiny spaces, sometimes in dangerous territory, and sometimes in rugged or unusual terrain.
Click on the photo below to see a slideshow of 10 of these creepy-crawly robots.
The Multi-Appendage Robotic System (MARS) from Virginia Tech's Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory looks like a giant spider with six legs instead of eight. Fabricated out of carbon fiber and aluminum, the robot's legs are spaced axi-symmetrically around its body, which lets it walk omni-directionally. Each leg uses a proximal joint with two degrees of freedom and a distal joint with one degree of freedom for added strength and rigidity. The goal is to develop a walking gait system for negotiating terrain with variations in height. The system is based on simplified biological neuron networks, arranged in subnetworks and subsystems to support the operation of another neural network: a central pattern generator (CPG) that generates gait patterns based on feedback from all supporting systems. (Source: Virginia Polytechnic and State University)
Yes, and I suppose Data in the later Star Trek series would also qualify as a friendly robot. But when it comes down to it, I agree with you that robots are generally worrisome. I think of the robot in Aliens and HAL in 2001 (if you can consider HAL as a robot) as particularly scary
Good point about Data, although he's more of an android, which is generally classed somewhat differently in sci-fi. And yes, HAL is a great example--perhaps one of the scariest, partly because he has no separate discernible body and partly because he basically is the ship, and therefore extremely powerful.
I think you're right about HAL being the scariest. Maybe it's that insinuating, almost snarly, whiny voice combined with his powers of control. I think a big factor is also his invisibility, in the sense of a lack of a discrete separate body.
Well described, Ann. When I first saw the movie HAL it was very creepy. On subsequent viewing, HAL becomes a bit comical. I'm sure you're aware the initials in HAL are IBM one letter earlier. I always thought that was very clever.
My fovorite movie was Dark Star in which they sent "Thermostellar Triggering Devices" to "unstable planets" to "eliminate" them (the planets).
One of the "Thermostellar Triggering Devices" got stuck in the bomb bay and guy inside the ship was carrying on a conversation with the bomb to try to get it to disarm itself. It kept refusing, saying that it absolutely was not stuck to the ship.
Wikipedia says Dark Star came out in 1974. It's really cheesey (is that a word) but good if you don't take it seriously; excapt for it predicting the future may be. I also like Brazil, one of the best films of all time!! Unfortunately Brazil is happening to us now. Both of these should be required viewing by ALL engineering students.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.