Your top 10 fictional robots
COSMOS readers nominate their favourite robots – from the cute to the menacing – in film, literature and TV.
Cynical and sociopathic, the cigar-chomping, beer-swilling star of Futurama is an unlikely hero. Bender is the creation of Simpsons team Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, and is voiced by John DiMaggio. His full name is Bender Bending Rodríguez and he was built as an industrial worker in a Mexican factory. Unlike most robots, Bender is mortal and may only live for another billion years. Futurama airs weekdays at 5.30pm on FOX8.
Marvin the Paranoid Android
Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy
Depressed and bored, Marvin the Paranoid Android is the robotic star of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Marvin is a failed prototype of Genuine People Personalities technology and suffers from superintelligence – no problem can occupy more than a fraction of his immense brain.
Superintelligent, awkward, and a bit of a heartthrob, Data is the robotic second officer of the Star Trek starships. Created by Doctor Noonien Soong, Data’s artificial intelligence is based on positronics, a concept first developed by sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov. A synthetic lifeform who looks exactly human-like, Data first appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, in 1987.
Adventurous and loyal, R2D2 began as a humble starship mechanic – an “astromech” – who developed intelligence and personality after many decades of operation. Astromechs usually have their brains wiped, but not R2D2 who came to accumulate knowledge and memories. He first appeared in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope directed by George Lucas in 1977.
Strong, athletic Sonny, the star cyborg of I, Robot released in 2004, is a far cry from the clunky robots of earlier decades. A prototype NS-5 model, Sonny is able to override the first law of robots: that humans should not be harmed. Fortunately he uses this power for good. I, Robot was loosely based on the stories of Isaac Asimov published in the 1950s.
Protector of the universe Optimus Prime began life in 1984 as a line of toys from Takara in Japan. The leader of the Autobots (a tribe of transforming robots from the planet Cybertron), Optimus saw his latest incarnation in the Transformers films of Michael Bay. Transformers depend on positronics for their intelligence and lifeforce.
Class M-3 Model B9
Lost in Space
The Class M-3 Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Control Robot is from the TV series, Lost in Space, first broadcast in 1965. Set in the future – 1997! – the series follows the Robinson family through deep space. B9 is rather … robotic. “Affirmative” and “Danger, Will Robinson”, are still quoted.
Johnny begins life as Protagonist Number 5, a prototype US military robot developed under the shadow of the Cold War. But when Number 5 is struck by lightning his circuits are fried. When the robot meets humans he begins learning and developing a personality. Short Circuit, released in 1986, was directed by John Badman.
In the 2008 film WALL-E, the Earth, ruined by rampant consumerism, is abandoned leaving robots to clean up the mess. After 700 years there’s only one left – WALL-E. Sentient and intelligent, and frustrated with his lonely existence, he seeks something greater than his programmed destiny. WALL-E stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth-Class.
When robots go badly wrong: James Cameron’s 1984 film is the story of a robot assassin from the future sent back to contemporary LA. The Terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is under the command of an artificial intelligence called Skynet. Terminator robots have a metal skeleton, but a layer of human tissue on their exterior.