For once I know what I’m doing this Friday night. Granted the choice usually falls between drinking at home or drinking away from my home, but it can be a difficult one to make, especially if there’s a few good flicks on (bah, who needs friends anyway).No, tonight I’m going to watch giant robots kick the living circuitry out of each other in an epic battle over who will ultimately become rulers of the human race… I’m talking Transformers baby.
After months and months of waiting, I will finally get to see Optimus Prime et all in their full CGI glory. And I. Am. Excited. So excited in fact, that I’ve not gone one day without looking up robots to quell my robotic fervor. And here, in their full cybernetic glory, are some of my findings. OK, none of them transform from 60ft humanoid battle-machines into everyday vehicles, or actually fight each other but you’re not expecting that… are you?
Identification: Sputnik SPK1 Monitoring Robot
Specifications: Two 12V motors with over 300oz.-inch torque each, 802.11b WiFi, range of sensor, camera and audio modules, goggly eyes.
Details: With his squat, appendage-less body and bulging eyes, poor little Sputnik doesn’t look up to much. But in that aluminium-encased tangle of wires and circuit boards, he features some start of art hardware and programming modules. Fair enough, he’s only *really* useful if you’re into studying robotic behaviour, but his capabilities mean that you can program him to makes sweeps of your house on security duty, with the audio and image data streamed to your PC or laptop anywhere around the world.
Best For: Science researchers, the acutely paranoid.
Cost: Robosapien this ain’t – £2,500.
Specifications: Humanoid appearance, 1.3 metres tall, 33kg, optical, audio and tactile sensory systems.
Details: "Human" looking robots are always a bit unsettling, but this one is taking creepiness to new levels. The CB2 has been created to look and act like a human child and will react to noise and moving objects, including the voices and faces of the humans that that have been built into its recognition software. It can also roll over and stand up of its own accord. Thankfully, unlike the weird little robot/kid in A.I., the CB2 can’t be detached from its power source, so it won’t be following you into the toilet.
Best For: Advancing robotics in general, creeping people out.
Cost: Millions of dollars in development.
Identification: Sega Dream Chick
Specifications: Fluffy covering. Likes to say "cheep-cheep".
Details: The Dream Chick, which is nothing like my dream chick (you’re out there somewhere), has been created by Sega to specifically mimic the behaviour of a week old baby chicken. Which means that it flaps its wings every now and then and constantly makes little chirping sounds. Obviously aimed at Japanese girls, the Dream Chick has become a highly coveted piece of Sega memorabilia, with every batch-run getting snapped faster than you can say "deep fried baby chicken wings".
Best For: Getting the attention of Japanese girls, making your Dreamcast-infatuated, Sega fanboy friend squirm with envy.
Cost: £10. So quite cheep then.
Identification: Robosapien V3 Media
Specifications: 40mb memory, 1gb removable memory, camera, 11 watt speakers, microphone, Linux OS
Details: Essentially this is a walking media centre. The robosapien V3 (V1 AND V2 were rubbish) records sound and vision then plays them back on its inbuilt LCD screen, can handle up to 1gb of memory, play Mp3 files via its speakers and will "investigate" noise and movement. Not sure what the point in all that is, but it seems like fun.
Best For: Recording yourself swearing on its memory card, then unleashing a torrent of abuse on unsuspecting visitors.
Identification: Foster-Miller Talon SWORDS
Specifications: M16, M2 or M249 machine gun, six barreled grenade launcher, 45kg, lithium/lead battery.
Details: The closest thing we’ve got to that robot in Short Circuit, but infinitely less irritating, the Talon SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System) has been deployed as a battle droid since 2005, operating along the Iraq-Kuwait border, detecting and engaging any enemy combatants that it happens to come across. Actually, that’s a bit misleading, ‘cos this ‘bot is dumber than a sack full of hammers. The Talon isn’t autonomous, meaning that it has to be controlled from afar by a soldier. That’s actually quite comforting – can you imagine if these guys were sentient beings with that level of firepower? It would be just like The Terminator. Maybe.
Best For: Killing stuff.
Cost: $200,000 per unit.