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September 04, 2012

My Picks for the Robot Hall of Fame

The Robot Hall of Fame, established in 2003 at Carnegie Melon University, is asking the public to vote for the next inductees that will be honored alongside other robotic icons like R2-D2 and C-3PO. But you don’t have to be a Jedi Master to be a judge -- just an average human. After filling out the online ballot (that runs through September 30th) I learned some fascinating tidbits about the robot's role in everyday society, like for example, Johnny 5 from the 1980's is still hot amongst the robot community. Here are my selections:

The nominees in the Education and Consumer category are NAO, “an autonomous, programmable, humanid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics of France in 2006;” Create, an iRobot from the Roomba Platform, and VEX Robotics Design Systems that feature erector-set like creations. I chose Create because it invokes the Cocorobo, the Japanese robot that vacuums, speaks Japanese and watches the dog. It’s because of these possibilities that I would ever think about creating a robot of my own.

The candidates in the Entertainment category are Disney-Pixar’s WALL-E, Rosie from “The Jetsons” and Johnny 5 from the 1986 film series Short Circuit. I chose Johnny 5 because I’m fond of my childhood recollections of this robot and because WALL-E seems to be the predecessor of what I now identify as a robotic icon. In addition, Johnny 5 was fun, unlike the matronly housekeeper what is rarely spotted without the dust wand.

Image via Shutterstock

The Industrial and Service category was not an easy one from which to select a favorite because all of the candidates conduct important work. All of these robots have boldly gone where no man has gone before. PackBot, for example, disarms bombs, is currently deployed in battle zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was the first responder to the Fukushima nuclear plant after the tsunami. Jason, by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institutes Deep Submergence Lab, has dispelled many mysteries from the ocean floor, including the famous Titanic; and Kiva Mobile-robotic Fulfillment System, is perhaps the most industrious, reducing the amount of manual labor in warehouses by impressive margins. Since I could only pick one, I once again went with iRobot’s innovation, which in this case is PackBot.

The final category is Research, and the candidates are BigDog by Boston Dynamics, an impressive-looking quadraped with an incredibly efficient ability for trekking difficult terrain; PR2 by Willow Garage, a platform that encourages robotic innovation and evolution through education and sharing, and Robonaut by NASA. Robonaut is exactly as its name implies—an astronaut robot. I chose Robonaut because I believe that NASA has much more to offer the American public than Angry Birds Space.

Unfortunately, we must wait until October 23 for the results. But stay tuned!

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Edited by Brooke Neuman

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