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Robot design covers many aspects, from the physical shape of the robot to the internal software architecture. Most people use “robot design” synonymously with physical morphology (the shape of the robot)- whether it has legs, propellers, looks like a human, changes shape (polymorphic), and so on. Q.U.R., a 1943 short story, provides the most explicit and succinct illustration of why form follows function though The Secret Life of Bots is much more moving, but Big Hero Six with the soft robot Baymax is probably the most fun exploration of when a humanoid shape is good and when something else (especially soft and cuddly) is better. 


  • why form follows function: Q.U.R., ROBINC, The Secret Life of Bots, Big Hero Six

  • why humanoids: The Caves of Steel

  • examples of different robot shapes for different tasks: Runaway, The Tea Master and the Detective

  • similarities and differences in human and robot: Short Circuit

  • The Illustrated Biography of Lord Grimm


For further reading:

  • Chapter 9: Locomotion, Introduction to AI Robotics, 2nd Edition, R. Murphy,  MIT Press 2019 (available Aug)

  • Springer Handbook of Robotics, 2nd Edition (Springer 2016)

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