The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has just wrapped up with a whopping 344 robots exhibits, one robot homicide (a Tesla in autonomous driving mode ran into a Promobot humanoid robot as it shuffled to a locking dock for the show), and a debate over whether a robot sex toy aimed at women is really a robot or just too outre’ for CES and that’s why CES rescinded the robot's innovation award. But sometimes the companies, or the internecine politics inside the companies (yes HBO's Westworld, we’re talking about you!), are more interesting than the robots and can be more illuminating about how real robots are developed. This fortnight will focus three aspects of building real robots: The lone scientist myth— that robots are created by a single visionary (didn’t you get a little weepy-eyed when Dyson dies in Terminator 2: Judgment Day? or when Roy Batty kills Tyrell in Blade Runner?), the function-versus-form debate in designing commercial robots (why is everyone pushing humanoid robots?), and the problems that occur in the testing and evaluation, production, and maintenance phases of a real product lifecycle (the problems that Donovan and Powell were sent to solve in the I, Robot stories, not the tendency for fictional robots to miraculously exceed their bounds and start an uprising).
So…put on Jefferson Starship’s We Built This City on the playlist, shout out:
"Someone always playing corporation games
Who cares they're always changing corporation names”
and then be on the lookout for RTSF reviews, a poll, and a slideshow and podcast so you can learn more about real robots by exploring companies in science fiction that built robots.