This year, for the first time, members of the public will have a say in selecting new inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame. Voters will be able to choose their favorite mechanical beings in four different categories: Education & Consumer, Entertainment, Industrial & Service, and Research, and the nominees include many names that will be familiar to even casual robot fans.
Established in 2003 by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science, the Robot Hall of Fame was originally a virtual museum, and some of its earliest inductees came from the world of science fiction and thus did not technically exist. But since 2009, it has been become a physical presence at roboworld, the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibit, housed in the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.
Past inductees were chosen by a panel of jurists, which have included science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke, SimCity creator Will Wright, and C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels. But the process has been opened this year, with a group of 107 robotics experts selecting the nominees. Hall of Fame officials will base half the final decision on the public vote and half on a survey of the robot experts.
While some of this year’s nominees — including the creepy headless BigDog (above) and the laundry-folding PR2 — are research robots perhaps better known to robot fans than to the general public, many are already a part of everyday life and pop culture. They include:
- Create, the hackable platform released by iRobot after enthusiasts kept ripping apart their Roombas;
- VEX Robotics Design System, used in schools and competitions;
- WALL-E, the heroic garbage compacting robot from the Disney/Pixar 3D animation of the same name;
- Rosie, wisecracking robotic maid from TV’s The Jetsons;
- Johnny 5, the sentient military robot from the comedy Short Circuit;
- Jason, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s remote-controlled deep-diving underwater, which helped map hydrothermal vents along the mid-Atlantic Ridge and scope out the wreck of the Titanic.
The public can vote via Surveymonkey through September 30. The induction ceremony at the Carnegie Science Center on October 23 is also open to the public (although tickets are a pricey $99). The ceremony will also honor five jury-selected robots from the 2010 induction class: NASA Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity; iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner; the da Vinci Surgical System; Bruce Dern’s buddies Huey, Dewey, and Louie from 1971′s Silent Running; and T-800, played by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator.
I was excited to see that this year’s nominees include many of the robots I learned about while researching my robotics activity book for kids. It’ll be hard to choose my favorites. Who will you vote for?