In the "Terminator" series, several of the most powerful robots could take down a wall with one arm swing. Now tool-maker Husqavarna has released a demolition bot that can lift part of a building and move it out of the way -- just like Schwarzenegger’s robot -- although without the weapons.
NASA has a new robot translator, too, just like "Star Trek" android Data. And a new Stanford robotic car based on the Audi A8 can think for you, similar to KITT from "Knight Rider." Here are our ten favorite fictional bots and the real-world robots they’ve inspired.
We think even the T-800 would have a hard time defeating the Husqvarna DXR310 demolition bot, which can stretch its hydraulic arm up to about 5.5 meters, use a claw that has a crushing power of about 45 tons of pressure and can roll around like a tank at about 15-20 mph. The bot has a 30-horsepower motor and is used at construction sites with a remote control viewfinder.
In the classic sci-fi movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," the robotic ship computer HAL 9000 spoke in a droll voice and warned his shipmates about wresting control away from him. The L.O.U.I.E. (Life-Like Often Useless Interactive Entity) robot, in development at Yost Engineering, is less hostile, but just as well spoken.
L.O.U.I.E. is designed for casual conversations. The commercially available android can learn from speech patterns and process questions quickly. He will react to questions, smile and smirk, and even cry. You can order the robot with customized colors on the outer shell and eyes.
WALL-E is the far-future bot from the Disney movie of the same name. He's designed for waste disposal, but can also communicate through a video connection. And the Anybot QB is a remarkably similar robot.
The Anybot QB -- which has facial expressions like WALL-E's -- is a telepresence robot, which means it can capture video during a conference room meeting and mimic your “presence” even though you’re not there. The bot can show your live Web video and you can comment on the discussion; between meetings, you can operate it remotely. The two-wheeled bot even moves out of the way automatically when gliding down a hallway and can beep a warning chime.
You may remember Data from the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series and how he (er, it) was always trying to mimic human behavior. Now what is probably the most advanced robot ever built is about to embark on a similar quest -- NASA's Robonaut 2.
Robonaut 2 is a 300-pound android that will join the crew of the space shuttle Discovery for the upcoming launch. Co-designed with GM, the robot has 40 ultra-sensitive sensors – for example, its five-fingered hand can tell the difference between a feather and a wrench. The bot can lift 20 pounds per hand, and can even recognize humans and other objects and stop working. The bot has four “eyes” that stream video back to NASA and two infrared sensors in its nose to aid in depth perception.
R2-D2 from Star Wars is easily one of the most beloved and versatile robots from the movies. Now Adept Technologies has developed an industrial delivery bot called the MT400 that can speak and respond to humans and even carry a payload.
The MT400 can speak and respond to humans, carry a payload -- and blink at you with blue lights. The bot uses automated guidance so it can find its way through a warehouse, avoid obstacles (and humans) and find its destination. One practical use would be in a hospital setting where the bot could be programmed to deliver a prescription to a specific hospital room – and even give the instructions on how to use them.
The robotic maid in "The Jetsons" would sweep up quickly after a mess. The latest iRobot Roomba is designed for a similar function.
An autonomous vacuum cleaner from iRobot can zoom in and clean up fur, dirt, leftover dog food crumbs, and even other unmentionables. The Roomba’s latest upgrades allow it to scan a room and determine the size. You can also program the vacuum to avoid certain areas and to clean several rooms in your house at regular intervals. There’s also a pool and gutter version.
In the classic series "Knight Rider," the autonomous car KITT (Knight Industries Three Thousand) could drive itself and capture video from the front of the car. Stanford is now building a real version of KITT -- based on an Audi A8.
The Stanford team shifted gears for this autonomous Audi, which it calls Shelley. The car uses differential GPS which is accurate to within 2 centimeters. (Previous vehicles used video feeds and motion sensors.) As the car drives itself, it constantly compares its current location against a map to make sure it is in the right spot on the road. The reason the car is being tested on a mountain is to prove it is capable of making frequent turns and can control its speed accurately around curves in the road.
Johnny Five played a starring role in "Short Circuit" -- the 1986 comedy about a sentient robot that rebelled against the government's plan to put him to use. And the latest military-grade robot from iRobot, called the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle, is his spitting image.
In the 1986 film "Short Circuit," the whole idea was to create “experimental military robots” to attack and destroy enemy strongholds. The SUVG is more of a reconnaissance drone, though, and can inspect bombs and other threats. The 30-pound bot can climb stairs, use a thermal camera to inspect objects even in heavy fog, and has a 312x optical zoom camera.
C-3PO, the famously anxious droid from Star Wars, was marvelously capable. He could walk independently, complete any task assigned to him, and talk -- boy could he talk. C-3PO claimed he was fluent in over six million forms of communication.
This fully autonomous bot is wired up with the latest advanced robotic features, just like C-3PO. For starters, it has four microphones that can listen to humans and react to commands. The bot can sense who is talking and turn toward the speaker. The bot can be programmed to speak a monologue or even play music. Two cameras, one on its head and one by its mouth, can record at 30 frames per second. There’s also a capacitive touch sensor on its head (touch to disable him, for example).
Optimus Prime from "The Transformers" could change from a truck into a massive, sentient robot. and nothing today works quite like that -- although OshKosh is doing its darndest to imitate the Autobots.
The Oshkosh TerraMax is not quite capable of transforming into a 22-foot tall robot, but it does have several advanced robotic functions. On-board sensors help this autonomous truck merge into traffic, pass another car and look both ways at an intersection. The vehicle is used for “situational awareness” in that it can aid military in looking for IED explosives and other threats.
Remember Data from Star Trek, or HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey? You'll soon interact with real-world versions of these and other famous fictional robots, as manufacturers create new robots that seem ripped straight from the movies and television.