Science Fiction’s Most Popular Robots

Last week we asked Pandora Society members to vote on their favourite robots from science fiction! The results are in! Who are Fiction’s Most Popular Robots?

#7: Gort–The Day the Earth Stood Still

Gort_FiringGort is an interstellar policeman who accompanies Klaatu on his mission to Earth. In the original film, made in 1951, Gort was played by Lock Martin. He wore a thick foam-rubber suit designed and built by Addison Hehr. In the 2008 remake he is completely computer generated.

Realism: Gort is a very realistic robot. Not only are robotic police a possibility, they’re a very strong probability in the immediate future. The military is already becoming increasingly robotised. Armoured, weaponized humanoid soldiers, capable of understanding basic commands and operating under human supervision are within the reach of current technology, and robot surveillance police are already becoming a thing.


#6: Robbie the Robot–Forbidden Planet

robbieRobbie is the personal robot of Dr. Morbius. The suit was created by multiple designers at MGM’s props department, and was operated by Frankie Darro. Robbie’s voice was provided in post production by Marvin Miller. After being on display for many years, the original suit was eventually sold to William Malone, and it remains part of his collection today. Robbie went on to make appearances in several other films and television shows including Lost in Space, The Addams Family, and Columbo.

Realism: One of Robbie’s unique characteristics is his ability to replicate anything. Replication and artificial intelligence are two completely separate fields, and it seems unlikely that they would be combined in one unit. The practicality is also disputable. Robbie’s intelligence is highly advanced. It is unclear if he is self-aware but he possesses a dry sense of humour and a distinct personality.


marvin_the_paranoid_android_by_yummy_0-d3ifbvl#5: Marvin the Paranoid Android–The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Marvin was originally created for the novel series by Douglas Adams, and was played by Stephen Moore in the BBC series and by Alan Rickman in the 2005 film. It is this later appearance for which he is most well known. Marvin is described as maniacally depressed as a result of having a brain “the size of the planet.” He is a failed prototype of a personal companion android designed by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation who tried to make robots with a “Genuine People Personality.”

Realism: Marvin is about as realistic as the world being run by white mice when everybody knows that it’s run by cats.


#4BB-8,_Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens: BB-8–Star Wars

BB-8 is the youngest of the famous robot family, and from the first moment it appeared it had a lot to live up to. BB-8 is a practical effect in the newest Star Wars film, the astromech droid for X-wing resistance fighter Poe. Left on its own, BB-8 eventually meets up with the film’s protagonist Rey, and drags her into the interstellar drama taking place in a galaxy far, far away.

Realism: In one sense, BB-8 already exists. On the other hand, nobody can be entirely sure that the Star Wars films aren’t recreated from historical documents recovered from long, long ago.


Bender_Rodriguez#3: Bender–Futurama

Bender is one of the protagonists of popular animated show Futurama. He was built in Mexico in 2996 at “Mom’s Robot Factory.” He is far from being one-of-a-kind as his unit number is 1,729. He was originally created as a construction worker, but on the show he has a job as assistant sales manager.

Realism: Bender is an extremely realistic depiction of a human being. The likelihood of an artificial intelligence to equal him is less than even that of Marvin.


#2: Data–Star Trek: The Next Generation

DataTNGData is an artificial intelligence and a synthetic life-form serving as the second officer on board the U.S.S. Enterprise. He was created by Dr. Noonien Soong and, besides two other androids by the same creator, is entirely unique. He is completely sentient, but lacks many human emotional traits.  He is played by Brent Spiner, and the only visual indication of his non-human status is the extremely pale make-up that gives him an almost wax-like appearance.

Realism: If true sentient artificial intelligence were ever to be created, it might look a lot like Data. However, such a discovery would not have occurred without hundred of thousands of preceding failures, and many Star Trek fans have pointed to Data’s solitary existence as one of the logical flaws in the show. In addition, he is also a synthetic life form. While some halting steps have been made in the directing of artificial cell growth, it isn’t a stretch to say that it will take us even longer to create artificial bodies than it will to create artificial intelligence.


#1: R2-D2–Star Wars

R2-D2_DroidIt should come as no surprise that everybody’s favorite droid is R2-D2, the lovable, beepable, multi-tooled sidekick of George Lucas’ groundbreaking film franchise Star Wars. He first appears in the company of Princess Leia, who entrusts him with secret plans to the Death Star. After Leia’s capture, R2-D2 shows remarkable intelligence and courage in plotting his own escape, acquiring assistance from the locals, successfully completing his mission, and saving everybody in the films from certain death.

R2-D2 is a remote controlled prop, and has been recreated around the world by various R2-D2 builders clubs. He can converse in a series of electronic noises that can be understood by other robots and some intelligent people as well. His abilities include piloting a space ship, downloading data from space stations, projecting holograms, reassuring panicking droids, and hijacking other operating systems. He is arguably the most popular robot in the world, and was one of the first robots to be inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame.

Realism: R2-D2 combines Marvin’s brain with BB-8’s lovableness and the intelligence and gentle humour of Data. While practically R2 units are fairly easy to construct, it is easy to see that R2-D2 has perhaps evolved beyond the original design of his creator. He is no factory created droid, but clearly a being with feelings and intelligence beyond that of a mere ship’s computer. There is only one R2-D2 in the world, and to suggest creating him is as absurd as the concept of creating another version of you.


Katie Lynn Daniels is the author of Supervillain of the Day, and the mastermind behind Vaguely Circular. She blogs about science and things that are peripherally related to science. You can read all her posts here.

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