Kell Robinson EID 111 Feb. 8, 1999


A robot is a machine device that works at a task. Human effort and ingenuity go into building and programming the robot, and there is a saving of effort in the end because of the work the robot does, that humans would have had to do if they had not built the robot. This is the case of the practical, workaday robot. There are other robots whose jobs are not done out of simple necessity. Take for instance robots that play games such as chess or tic©tac©toe. This is not drudgery but amusement, it is escape from drudgery. Robots of all types have in common that they perform recognizable, human tasks; that is, for whatever reason, we have set these machines to do things that we actually do ourselves.

Consider the crawling soldier toys that can be seen on sidewalks outside some stores in Chinatown. While crawling is something that soldiers do, this activity would entail avoiding obstacles or stopping at certain times according to the circumstances (taking the environment into account). Bumping one's head into a wall and thrashing in place, as a toy does, does not accomplish the human soldier's crawling task. And so we can say that a robot takes conditions into account in order to modulate its actions in a way appropriate to the task.

By this criterion, Momoyo Torimitsu's crawling mannequin doesn't qualify as a real robot. It requires a human to attend it, while a functioning, efficient robot attends to its task with a degree of independence.