9 Low tech vs. high tech: Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have reportedly used ladders to flip over and disable the U.S. military robots sent to scout out their caves.
10 Elektro, the world’s first humanoid robot, debuted in1939. Built by Westinghouse, the seven-foot-tall walking machine“spoke” more than 700 words stored on 78-rpm records to simulate conversation.
11 Life is tough in Tinseltown: Elektro later appeared in the 1960 B movie Sex Kittens Go to College.
12 R2-D2 is the only character that appears unchanged (by aging, say, or a funky black outfit) in all six Star Wars movies.
13 R2’s dark secret: It was played by actor Kenny Baker, who by the end was mostly given the boot and replaced by CGI.
14 Chris Melhuish of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory created robots that use bacteria-filled fuel cells to produce electricity from rotten apples and dead flies. The goal: robots that forage for their own food.
15 Mini Me: Australian researchers are trying to build a microrobot that would mimic the swim stroke used by E. coli bacteria.It would be injected into a patient so it could take a biopsy from the inside.
16 Cybernetics professor Kevin Warwick calls himself the world’s first cyborg, with computer chips implanted in his left arm. He can remotely operate doors, an artificial hand, and an electronic wheelchair.
17 Winebot, built by Japan’s NEC System Technologies and Mie University, can ID scads of different wines, cheeses, and hors d’oeuvres . . . up to a point. It recently mistook a reporter’s hand for prosciutto.
18 MIT’s Media Lab is trying to make robots personal,developing RoCo—a computer with a monitor for a head and neck—and Leonardo, a sort of super-Furby designed to respond to emotional cues.
19 No strings attached! Robotics expert Henrik Christensen predicts humans will be having sex with robots within four years.
20 Hans Moravec, founder of Carnegie Mellon’s RoboticsInstitute, predicts that robots will emerge as their own species by2040. “They could replace us in every essential task and, in principle,operate our society increasingly well without us,” he concludes, oddly cheery.