Top 10 – Robots
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
These are the laws that may one day save us from a Matrix/Terminator style situation, the rules that all artificial intelligence must be bound to, with some possible extra stipulations to prevent I.Robot happening too. Despite the fears of luddites who still beat their phones with rocks hoping for the fire that might cook their freshly slain microwavable pasta, science marches on with an army of entirely hypothetical robots at its back with only the purpose of discovery, and also having a cool butler who makes drinks and you don’t even have to pay him.
In the mean time we sit and twiddle our opposable thumbs, waiting for the future and dreaming about what might be, and conjuring images such as these that we have assembled here.
A quick note before we begin, we had to wade through so many names in the construction of this list, so many incredible entrants were left behind, but there are plans afoot, and if you can’t see your favourites then keep your eyes on the future. There may yet be another Top 10 Robots…
10) TaySpeaks – Microsoft
Oh Microsoft, why did you ever think that this was going to be anything short of a miserable failure? To their credit, they really did a good job with the AI on this one, but the point is that the internet was able to corrupt it faster than you could say “Bah, who put these slanderous trolls on my Twitter?!”
But seriously, what Microsoft achieved was something that will always be remembered for what it was. It “lived” for exactly one day before it had to “go to sleep”. What an interesting internet and an interesting day that Twitter Bot had. Though the question remains: if Twitter don’t like Twitter bots, why did they allow Microsoft’s Twitter Bot? Who knows. Are Twitter Bots Robots?
9) Sir Killalot – Robot Wars
Sir Killalot was the name of one of the house robots from the UK version of Robot Wars, when it was hosted by Craig Charles. This big robot was tough, it was agile, it was able to lift the contestants robots up, spin them around, skewer them on its lance and cook them over the flame pit. If that wasn’t enough, it just driving into most robots was enough to stop a robot dead in its tracks.
The first time Sir Killalot was toppled was one of those moments that caused a lot of shock and astonishment. Many a robot with a flipping mechanism tried to say they could flip Sir Killalot, but none of them ever achieved this, leaving Sir Killalot as the only house robot to never be flipped. However, what people didn’t expect was for Sir Killalot to be so, hmm, flammable. He had been set fire to several times… And what more chaotic way to go than death by flames?
A Disney-Pixar classic in the making, Wall-E follows a little robot of the same name who is the last robot on Earth. It spends its days travelling the world to clean it up, slowly but surely, by collecting rubbish piece by piece. One day he meets EVE and instantly falls smitten with his new Robo-Companion in the making. So he follows EVE and goes on the biggest adventure of the tiny robots life.
Wall-E is an incredibly sweet movie that manages to convey a complex array of emotions through the most basic of means. Wall-E has no mouth, just two adorably expressive eyes which are believably robotic. If there’s any Top 10 Disney can’t creep into, it’ll be a weird one, because even when given the tough subject of “Robots”, it manages to slip in. I want a Wall-E for my house now, saves me picking up the rubbish the cat knocks on the floor, I tell you.
7) R.O.B. the Robot
Those of you who love Nintendo or those who just love their video games will surely be familiar with R.O.B the Robot. If you’re not familiar with it, then there’s a few different things to discuss when it comes to R.O.B… But first the lesser part. In the Super Smash Bros franchise, R.O.B is one of the fighters. Using piston-like arms which smack at its opponents, plus being able to sort of use jet-boosts to lower himself safely, R.O.B is a useful character for staying in the game.
However, R.O.B stands for Robotic Operating Buddy, which was released in Japan and North America primarily. It was created in response to one of video games darkest periods, the Video Game Crash of 1983, with profits going from $3.2 billion to a mere $100 million in the space of 2 years. Without R.O.B coming to the shelves of retailers, who knows where our beloved games industry would be today. The R.O.B is actually a rather unique NES controller, although only two games were ever made to be used with it. It’s also fair to assume Wall-E had a lot of inspiration from R.O.B.
6) Bender – Futurama
Bender Bending Rodriguez was constructed in Tijuana to bend girders to shape, and the entire purpose of this alcohol-powered robot (product of Mom Corp.™) is to bend things, but he’s possessed of enough artificial intelligence that he’s expanded his repertoire to include larceny, petty crime, irritating everyone nearby as an extension of his overall “kill all humans” protocols, a deep seated desire to sing country music, and being best friend to accidental time-traveller Fry.
Without doubt the driving comedy force behind the bulk of Futurama, Bender is frequently the universal RetCon or MacGuffin as well as being a surprisingly deep character for such a shallow machine, because if you can look past his in-your-face interface then underneath there’s the ticking heart of a machine who is capable of a great deal of love, warmth, and affection. If you look under that you’ll find your wallet, and a shiny metal ass covered in bite marks.
5) CL4P-TP – Borderlands
Designated CL4P-TP general purpose robot by the Hyperion corporation, the entire production line more commonly known as Claptrap because of its incessant yammering, faux pomposity, and all-round irritating programming. Claptraps begin the Borderlands story as being everywhere, because despite how annoying they are, they have their uses, but following an uprising led by Interplanetary-Ninja-Assassin Claptrap the line was scrapped by Hyperion CEO Handsome Jack, leaving only one left alive, the one that had once helped deal with the “Elpis Situation”.
The character has actually taken a far more interesting role in the franchise as a whole. Aside from becoming a player-character in the Pre-Sequel, Claptrap has also been heavily utilized as a familiar “face” in the advertising, in which he plays the director of the game series trying desperately to deal with his actors, stage hands and the studio. Despite falling into a similar role as characters like Navi – Legend of Zelda’s irritating but tragically necessary guide – CL4P-TP actually has to get some credit for being funny… as well as useless and annoying.
4) Data – Star Trek
Lieutenant Data has served aboard the Enterprise under Captain Piccard about as proudly as an emotionless android can. Driven by curiosity a pre-programmed need to understand and integrate with humans and other civilized humanoids in the galaxy, he joined the Enterprise after going through the academy like any other recruit, and journeyed with them discovering life through his relationships with the crew and their combined discovery of new life and new civilisations, and boldly discovering what we flesh and blood creatures could never hope to discover about ourselves.
In his time he has come to know friendship, love for people and animals, hatred for his “brother” Lore, and has even embraced that most human of abilities, self-sacrifice. He even fascinates the Borg Queen, whose efforts to unify all life and eliminate individuality take a strange turn as she endeavours to further Data’s efforts to become human by giving him artificial flesh. Like many of our entrants, he’s used as a lens through which to observe the nature of life and the human experience, but along the way becomes a very real person in his own right.
3) Marvin the Paranoid Android – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
“The first ten million years were the worst. And the second ten million: they were the worst, too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that, I went into a bit of a decline.”
Despite the misnomer, we couldn’t leave Marvin off the list. Y’see despite being described as paranoid, or as manic depressive by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the critically flawed service-bot has only ever exhibited morose depressive habits, listlessness and disinterest, but he’s still fully deserving of the number three slot this week.
In between his menial tasks such as “showing you two to the bridge” or “opening up the ship” Marvin has managed to calculate the square root of -1, resolved all military, economic, biological, medical, social and psychological problems in the universe except his own, and has even resolved the whole Life, the Universe and Everything problem not that anyone asked. Having a brain the size of a planet is apparently not good enough when they have a tiny piece of an actually planet sized computer wandering around time and space with them.
Sirius Cybernetics produced many Genuine People Personalities in their devices, resulting in oddly specific coffee machines, existential elevators and a wide variety of other misguided machines, but the pinnacle of their efforts must surely be the impossibly tragic Marvin. Also, he has a chronic pain in all the diodes down his left hand side, not that anyone cares.
2) Optimus Prime – Transformers
He’s the leader of the Autobots, he’s Earth’s greatest guardian, he’s big, he’s powerful and he’s number two on our list. A great inspiration to many of the other Autobots and indeed an inspiration to many a human too, Optimus is certainly a multi-skilled asset to bring to the team. From his martial arts knowledge, to his acute sense of justice and honour, Optimus is truly the guardian the Earth needed. Plus, he can transform into an awesome truck of some kind, including a fire truck in one of the universes!
Part of the ancient tribe of the Dynasty of Primes, Optimus is as old as he is wise and powerful. He’s kind and heroic, he’s exactly what you would want from a guardian of the Earth. It’s fair to say that Optimus has often been imitated but he’s never been recreated by people producing unlicensed rip-offs of the character. Regardless, Optimus is that shining beacon of light that everyone needs once in a while.
1) R2D2 – Star Wars
Star Wars is the franchise that topped our list and we went not with C3PO, even though he is pretty awesome unto himself. No, R2D2, the little upside down dustbin on wheels, Dalek-esque. He’s the pipsqueak who speaks with beeps. He’s a rebel with a built-in awesome-switch but what makes R2D2 the best robot of Star Wars and thus the best robot on our list?
First of all, the language he has: Because R2D2 speaks in beeps and boops, which are indecipherable to anyone who watches Star Wars. Yet, everyone in the franchise, good or bad, seems to know what it’s saying. Therefore, it has trained all the humanoids to understand it is the true master of the galaxy and all must listen to it beep! Nevertheless, R2D2 has been at the side of many a powerful ally, but also has been directly involved in some of the biggest conflicts of the galaxy… And all of this has happened, with R2D2 never being wiped of its memory. Therefore, R2D2 is one of the most independent, self-aware robots ever created… And he knows it.
Not all robots are built to enslave mankind, or to befuddle them with their baffling acts of kindness. Who on Earth would make a robot capable of love anyway? It’s not like they’d have robo-probes… To capture our hearts and minds, of course! Anyway, here’s two more robots who really deserve to be loved for the sentient beings they are.
Warforged – Dungeons & Dragons
Only in Eberron would a band of arcane engineers have the brilliant idea of creating life and selling it to whichever military bids the highest. No mere automatons of war, demand was issued for a machine capable of devising and improvising strategies, interpreting orders without disobeying, and overall being the best soldiers ever fielded. House Cannith, the mad tinkers blessed with pseudo-divine power constructed mighty life-forges that created a people, fully fledged and debatably alive.
Without a war, the warforged of Eberron are lost, unwanted by many, seen as weapons that should be destroyed. In the depths of the haunted Mournlands, the Warforged live free of fleshy interference. Some feel that in order to truly be alive they must have a god, and have dedicated themselves to the purpose of constructing one who shall deliver them from their artificial origins into a new era. Others resent the people that drove them out, and follow the life-hating King of Blades and his crusade against organic life and machine supremacy. But these are just the stories of the race’s origins, Warforged could exist in any world you please, if you have a place for them. And also they’re great fun to play.
Asimo – Honda
Named after science fiction legend and father of many of the philosophical debates about artificial intelligence, Isaac Asimov, and also an acronym of Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, Honda’s first foray into real androids captured the world’s imagination when the first model was revealed at the turn of the millennium. A bipedal machine capable of limited interaction and interpretation of its surroundings that could walk, climb stairs, even run to a limited extent. Models have developed and progressed as research into robotics and the ever-shrinking nature of computer technology have allowed for the machine to become something wholly different from the original.
Originally designed with a view to aiding those with limited mobility with a fully mobile and strong assistant, the humanoid robot has since become more of a showcase to encourage advancement of robotics, and as a kind of entertainer. In the years that followed, the field has seen huge leaps forward, creative leaps in experimentation and development, and while total integration of robotics into society has some serious ramifications on the way we live, the future owes a lot to a four foot tall side-show attraction.
That’s it for this week – We’re now able to stop bowing to our robot overlords and we can finally rise up again as humans, the creators of said robots! Man vs machine is no joke, but now we turn to you, the audience, to give us our vote for next week.
Now that we don’t have to worry about any more uprisings, it’s time for us to turn to you one more time and ask you: What did you think of our list? Do you agree with the entrants to the list, or do you think we missed any in particular? Do you disagree with anything that’s on the list? As always, let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook, Twitter or Reddit channels. We’ll see you again next week for another Top 10!