Tag Archives: Fiction

Collecting robots on postcards – 8

Lost in Space was a television series from Irwin Allen Productions, set in the then future year of 1997. The show first aired in 1965 and ran for three seasons with no less than 83 episodes! This was the first science fiction series that I ever watched (at 10 years old) and my favourite character was, of course, the Robot.

Lost in Space postcard front

I wonder if this was the first Robot to ever have a famous ‘catch phrase’? The Robot saying “Danger Will Robinson” is well known, but apparently that exact phrase was only said once, and not until the third-season episode Deadliest of the Species.

Altoids mints - Danger Will Robinson!The catch phrase was even used to advertise ‘Altoids’ mints. The brand was created in London in the 1780s, but is better known in the USA. What would they have made of the robot B-9 in the UK back in 1780 I wonder!

The Robot was officially known as “B-9, Class M-3 General Utility Non-Theorising Environmental Control Robot”. If the robot seems familiar, it will come as no surprise to find that it was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Robby the Robot for the film Forbidden Planet.

Thanks to Wikipedia, we have these details of the robots (fictional) capabilities:

1. The Robot possessed powerful computers that allowed him to make complex calculations and to deduce many facts;

2. He had a variety of sensors that detected numerous phenomena and dangers;

3. He was programmed with extensive knowledge on many subjects, including how to operate the Jupiter 2 spaceship;

4. His construction allowed him to function in extreme environments and in the vacuum of space;

5. He was extremely strong, giving him utility both in performing difficult labour and in fighting when necessary. Moreover, his claws could fire laser beams and, most frequently, a powerful “electro-force” that was similar to arcing electricity.

Lost in Space postcard back

One final very interesting piece of trivia is that the open and closing theme music was written by John Williams, the composer behind the Star Wars theme music, who was listed in the credits as “Johnny Williams”.

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What if humanoid robots went on sale today?

Persona Synthetics - Channel 4 TV

Regent Street store

With so many companies, both new and well established, working and investing heavily in the field of robotics, mostly in secret, are we likely to wake up one morning and find humanoid robots on sale in a high street store? Perhaps you would buy one to carry out tasks at home like ironing, cutting the grass, painting and decorating? Would you buy one so that you could leave it in charge of your children when you go out? Would you buy one as a companion?

This month, a team of shop-fitters appeared to be setting up an amazing new store on London’s Regent Street, but what were they selling? The store, for a company by the name of ‘Persona Synthetics’, appeared to be opening soon selling home robots:

“Experience the new generation Synthetic Human from Persona Synthetics. Not just an appliance but a deeply personal lifestyle choice: your Synth is the help you’ve always wanted. All models are fully documented and exhaustively tested before sale, with full service histories provided. At Persona, your peace of mind isn’t an optional extra.”

Many people believed that humanoid robots were going to be on sale very soon, not realising that it was part of a very clever advertising campaign for Channel 4 television’s new series Humans, which will begin in June.

It won’t be long, I’m certain, before this really happens, perhaps in the form of a new Apple Robot Store, but will people believe it, or think it is just another clever advertising campaign?

The programme ‘Humans’ actually looks quite creepy as you will see from the trailer below.

On 11th May, The Independent newspaper reported that:

… viewers watching Prometheus on TV over the weekend were deeply unsettled during the first ad break when a commercial aired announcing that robotic maids were now on sale to watch over your family.

Tucking your children into bed and helping fold sheets, the housekeeper was sinister enough to be terrifying, but subtle enough to be believable, especially given technology’s recent rapid acceleration.

Persona Synthetics robot - screen shot

There is a website for the fictional Persona Synthetics where you can read about the ‘4CX-CNS Neural Processor’ installed in each robot, the ‘all day battery’, and the ‘fully customisable personality’. However there is a warning that ‘Persona Synthetics take no responsibility for the actions of synths that have not had the latest firmware updates. Factory reset should only be carried out by Persona Synthetics Inc. staff.’

I look forward to the new series, inspired by the hit Swedish TV series Real Humans (2012). No doubt we will be hearing a lot more about it. From the comments I have read so far, it looks as if Channel 4 have a potential big hit.

Not satisfied with producing a shop front and a very professional website, Channel 4 also opened up an eBay store where they were offering two of the robots for sale to pre-registered bidders. Starting at £20,000 each, the robots were described as ‘new generation synthetic humans’ with the following functions – ‘childcare, cooking and personal training’.
eBay listing screen shoteBay listing screen shot

I, Robot – free audio book

Have you ever read Isaac Asimov’s famous collection of robot stories, cleverly linked together into one book? The stories which eventually made up I, Robot were written between 1940 and 1950, but they are just as fascinating and thought provoking today.

Audible 30-Day Free Trial

At the time of writing this short Blog entry, there is an advert for Audible on the right hand side of this page. If you sign up for a free 30-day trial of the Audible service, you can listen to I, Robot completely free – all eight hours and 25 minutes of it.

One audio book reviewer wrote:

Listening to this audiobook was a true pleasure. The classic sci fi tale of robots and the future of humanity has aged very well and many of the issues it rasies still feel contemporary. The book’s structure is pure genius, taking several previously published short stories (some which feature on going characters and some which don’t) and stiching them together with original work by means of a journalist conducting reseach. The stories are increasingly epic and complex, each one drawing the listener further into the world of the robots. This is also fascinating for any sci fan as it effectively documents the developement of the genre in the last century, from the simplistic and haunting stories of the pulp fiction anthologies (which make up most of the first half of the book) to the politically complex novels that writers like Clark, Dick and of course Asimov went on to write.  On the production side the reader does an excellent job representing the different charatcers, both human and robotic!