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)
Good science fiction was never about the technology or the imagination of the author. It was about the effect that technology had on people. It was people stories in a scientifically extrapolated setting.
For example: Forbidden Planet was about our hidden emotions and what could happen if they were given the power to express themselves.
The Caves of Steel (Isaac Asimov) was about the consequences of automation on people. It was examined in the context of a mystery story.
Planet of the Apes examined our self destructiveness by looking at a potential aftermath (the human race cripples itself leaving room for Apes to advance).
The problem with science fiction today is that it has moved into the realm of fantasy. It is no longer about potential futures and how we fit into them, or the consequences of our choices. It is about adventure in an imaginary landscape.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
In a line of ultra-futuristic projects, DARPA is developing a brain microchip that will help heal the bodies and minds of soldiers. A final product is far off, but preliminary chips are already being tested.
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