Science beats fiction in Robot Hall of Fame

Three of the four robots inducted this year by Carnegie Mellon were made by real scientists, not writers or directors. Photos: 2007 Robot Hall of Fame inductees

BOSTON--Real science is finally beating out science fiction when it comes to the Robot Hall of Fame.

Carnegie Mellon University on Tuesday announced its 2007 inductees into the Robot Hall of Fame--comprised of both real and science fiction robots--here at its RoboBusiness 2007 conference. Three of the four robots selected by a jury of 25 leading roboticists were built by actual scientists.

"For the first time, the jury selected more robots from science in fact than science fiction," said Matt Mason, the director of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon.

"Perhaps it's a trend that we are finally beginning to fulfill expectations," he said.

Lego Mindstorms, the robot building set intended to inspire children to build their own robots, was named as an inductee.

The Navlab 5 was also honored for its achievement in driving from Pittsburgh, Penn., to San Diego, Calif., steering itself 98 percent of the way in a program called "No Hands Across America" in 1995.

The Raibert Hopper, a one-legged hopping robot, made in 1983 and 1984, was also honored, though more for its breakthrough that inspired many of today's mobile robots.

"The one-legged hopper has stiff competition. I don't think the one-legged hopper would be interesting except that it has the DNA for later two-legged and four-legged robots," Mason said.

Representing the fictional side of robots, Lieutenant Commander Data, the robot played by Brent Spiner on Star Trek: The Next Generation, was inducted for its continual curiosity and philosophical questioning of the logic of humans and the rights of humanoid machines.

"Behind every great roboticist, there is a robot from science fiction that inspired that roboticist," said Don Marinelli, the executive producer of the Entertainment Tech Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

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