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Star Trek's Data joins Robot Hall of Fame

by Paul Jay, CBC News Online

Real-life robots outnumbered their science fiction counterparts for the first time among the inductees to Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Hall of Fame, announced on Tuesday.

Star Trek's Lt. Cmdr. Data was the lone fictional robot among four inductees announced at the fourth annual RoboBusiness Conference and Exposition in Boston this week.

Joining "him" in the hall of fame were:

  • Raibert Hopper, a one-legged hopping robot build in the early '80s that helped roboticists incorporate the idea that, like humans, robots needed motion for stability;
  • NavLab5, one of a series of autonomous vehicles that could steer itself at legal speeds on everyday roads and in 1995 completed a cross-country tour of U.S. in which it did 98 per cent of the driving;
  • LEGO Mindstorms, a building set that brought creative robotics to the masses.

The character of Data, played by actor Brent Spiner on the sci-fi television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, received mention for his contribution to the questions of robot ethics and human/machine philosophies.

Juror Anne Balsemo, the managing director of the Institute for Multimedia Literacy at the University of Southern California, singled out the episode The Measure of a Man, in which the character is put on trial to determine whether he has the right to refuse to submit to a procedure that would disassemble him.

It was fine television, and especially timely now that robot ethics has taken off. Data's inclusion, however, also offers further proof that Trekkies can be found in every major scientific institution in the United States.

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Al Richards

Bravo for Data. My wife and I really enjoyed watching The Next Generation series from the late 80s until it ended in 1994. It was excellent TV, and as a loyal original Star Trek fan, I immediately fell for TNG. Data was one of my favoutite characters, likely because I quite enjoyed Mr. Spock on the original series. Trekkies really are everywhere...

Posted May 18, 2007 12:29 AM

Steve

Tronna

Where's Astro Boy? He's another great fictional robot.

He has poignant beginnings, being inspired by the death of the designer's son and his incisive suggestion that creating a "boy robot" would somehow circumvent all the normal difficulties or building a working robot. Astro Boy is way better than Data.

Posted May 18, 2007 10:23 AM

Michael

Winnipeg

What about Robin William's Robot movie? That really went down to the corp of how human robots can become. It questioned if robots don't die, do they have the same rights as humans? Robin William's acting as a robot is one of the best films I've seen on this subject.

Posted May 19, 2007 11:46 AM

Ben

Kiev

The astroboy comment is interesting. Astroboy was one of the first fictional TV robots with human emotions and gave rise to interesting ethical dilemmas concerning his origins and how to coexist with humans and their prejudices. Data is certainly the superior robot though.

Posted May 19, 2007 04:18 PM

Mike Millington

I don't know about AstroBoy being "better" than Data, but he was certainly interesting nonetheless. I loved Data because he was so childlike; a quality we all tend to lose as adults.

Posted May 21, 2007 11:29 AM

Nadine MacDonald

I think the sentiment is admirable, but as a stickler (not to mention an avid Star Trek TNG fan!), I would like to point out that Lt. Cmdr. Data was an android, not a robot. This is something that was addressed numerous times on the show.

Posted May 22, 2007 03:18 PM

Mark Millington

Data was such a fine character. He was a huge asset to TNG series.

I did like Robbie the robot from the Forbidden Planet movie, and of course, The Lost in Space, Model B-9 Environmental-Control Robot, which had no given name.

Posted August 3, 2007 09:48 PM

Womble

London

You all seem to forget that Data is or was, NOT a robot, but android! Which is a robot or 'AI' designed in the perfect image of a humanoid both in appearance & behaviour. To perform ALL that a human can, or even better if we look at Data obviously. No wonder Brent Spiner refused to be honoured the 'Robot Of The Year' this year, not only for not even being an android, let's not confuse that either...

Posted March 10, 2008 01:14 PM

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