Robots in the News

These are some of the more well known robots that have made it onto national talk shows in North America and around the world. Hanson Robotics has their amazing Sophia and Engineered arts has their Mesmer and connections with the show Westworld.

Boston Dynamics has had their robots featured on shows like 60 Minutes and had a connection to some of the scenes in the tv series Black Mirror.

We are seeing fast developments in the largescale purchasing of robotics companies in 2021. Japanese company Softbank will be renting out business subscriptions to their enterprise version of their Pepper Robot. Also from Japan, NTT came out with a consumer robot called Sota. Softbanks French company Aldebaran developed the Pepper robot.

Now in this section we will talk about 2 areas.

  1. Robots in the media in the last few years
  2. Robots in movies, tv and books since the 1800s’

Robots in the media

As we sit now in April 2021 we have seen a flurry of interest in robotics and stories about robots and AI(artificial intelligence) on shows like CBS 60 Minutes and several other great shows including a well produced documentary with actor Robert Downey Jr.

Boston Dynamics which was recently sold to Hyundai Motors in 2020, has pretty well become the face and body of modern day robotics in the world of media for the last 5 or more years.

We have seen their ominous running dog like creatures and the amazing jumping and dancing full size humanoid robots on countless tv and web channels.

Elon Musk has been talking about his new Tesla cars, his Space X missions and his NeuraLink project over the last year and the pros and cons of artificial intelligence.

With our recent world wide lock downs and the changing nature of work we are all starting to look at other ways to get certain jobs done and robots are certainly what is being promoted as a partial solution to that challenge. Hopefully, we will get that challenge right for the betterment of mankind.

Robots in the movies and tv.

Robots have been portrayed in movies since the birth of film and books. There is probably a cave painting somewhere in the world with a non human looking mechanical creature depicted.

Back in 1868 some say that the first robot portrayed in book form was in the book “The Steam Man of the Prairies” by Edward Ellis. This mechanical metal man used a steam boiler to move it around and was about 10 feet tall.

The term “android” was popularized in an 1886 book by Auguste de Villier de L’isle Adam called “the Eve of the Future”.

There was a very early type of a movie format called a Vitagraph and they made many short vitagraphs and in 1907 came out with a movie vitagraph which featured what they called “mechanical men” or “automatons”.

The 1907 movie was called “The Mechanical Statue and the Ingenious Servant” and was directed by J Stuart Blackton.

Later in 1906 there were radio plays which featured a character called “Tic Toc” which meant “the Machine man”.

Later Disney reimagined the Tic Toc character to become the “Tin Man” in the movie “Wizard of Oz”.

The Frankenstein movie in 1931 featured a human mutation which behaved like a robot and many would argue that this depiction blurred our definition of what a robot really is to this day. Other movies followed with negative connotations to robots or mechanical men with names like “The Rubber Man”, Dr Smiths Automaton”, “the Electric Leg”, “A clever Dummy” and many more.

The famous director Fritz Lang featured one of the first robots in a movie called “Metropolis” set in the year 2026. This robot was a female and was created to be evil which may have set a bad precedent for robot characters into the future. Female robots are called Fembots or gynoids and there are not too many female robots in modern day toys at least compared to the number of male robot toys. Wowwee did come out with a female version of their Robosapien robot toy before the year 2000. There have been a handful of robotic type toy females created in the last few years and some robot toy humanoids and animals created to appeal to young girls.

We can then zoom ahead to the more modern times of the 1950s to today.

The 1956 science fiction film “The forbidden Planet” had a robot character “Robby the Robot”.

There was a cartoon female robot maid named “Rosie” in the TV cartoon series the “Jetsons”.

Other shows followed with robot characters like “Lost in Space” and “the Thunderbirds”.

In 1966 the tv sitcom spy comedy “Get Smart” featured a lovable but goofy robot named “Hymie”.

There was a robot in the show ”Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”.

The “Transformers” show dealt with robots, and the Pee Wee Hermans tv show had a robot character and there was “metal head” from the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles tv franchise.

Later in 1999 there was a robot character named “Bender” on the show “Futurama”.

Then we had a series of movies and tv shows in the ’90s and later like The Terminator, the Stepford Wives, Ghost in the Shell, RoboCop, Blade Runner, i Robot, Ex Machina, Almost Human,Gort the day the earth stood still, Close Encounters, Mars Attacks, Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001 Space Odyssey, Wall-E, Twilight Zone, Doctor Who, 6 Million Dollar man (tv series), Bionic Woman, Mork and Mindy, Knight Rider, Batman (DAVE character), Simone, Matrix, Chappie, Bicentennial Man, Robot and Frank, Automata, Repo Men, the Zero Theorem, Tron, Total Recall, Surrogates, Her, War of the Worlds, the Machine, Logans Run, Electric Dreams and the all time favorite Lars and the Real Girl.

Lets say a few things about two movies that are different yet both portray a dark future with robots.

Irobot starring Wil Smith is inspired if not based on Isaac Asimovs book of the same name. In this movie set in the not too distant future,the owner of the robot company dies but leaves some clues as to who his killer was. It turns out that the robot broke the first of three standard rules about not doing harm to humans. The movie goes on as Smith the police detective with one robotic arm from an injury which was repaired by the robot company owner years earlier.

The other more recent movie is a cartoon called Mitchels and the Machines which is a comical look at how the robot future can go bad. In the movie this billionaire cell phone pioneer creates the ultimate robot to make our lives easier but apparently he didn’t plan for the robot overthrow.

So the Mitchels are off on a road trip to do some dad daughter bonding when they come up to the robot takeover. Lots of laughs as humans all over the world are rounded up and shot into the sky into pods to meet some dark end.

There is so much more to list and one day we will organize this list properly. Lets get out to the next section where we will look at average people who are not part of the robotics big leagues…but they are making a big differnece in the robot awaremenss and creation movement.

They are hobbyists, hackers, and all around robotics hobbyists and fans.

These people have, in many cases, been building their own robots or in some cases the exact same one robot for over 10 years. Some are big dreamers…others are the next Elon Musk and Hanson. You go to their websites and pick your favorites to watch their progress….

An August 5, 2021 story reports “first bipedal robot to run 5 km”.

Out of Oregon University a robot named Cassie can be seen on youtube running with two legs and no body but with legs which are reversed from human legs and resemble the direction of legs on a chicken or perhaps an ostrich.

The story goes on to say that the run was completed on one battery charge and soon this type of robot could be used to make deliveries etc.