Presenting the "World's 10 Best Robots Ever"
R2-D2 and C-3PO - the Abbott and Costello of space - may be the most popular robots in history, but it's the littler one that really steals the show. Sure, C-3PO could walk and speak 6 million languages, but R2-D2 proved that robots can be emotive without being humanoid and don't need to speak English to communicate.
WABOT and WABOT-2 In the '70s, some roboticists were building machines to make Chevettes, but researchers at Tokyo's Waseda University were building bots in man's image. In 1973, they introduced Wabot, the first full-scale programmable android. It had eyes, flailing limbs, and the ability to speak Japanese. The next rev, Wabot 2, played piano.
The Stanford Racing Team's autonomous vehicle is a modified Volkswagen Touareg that can scan any terrain and pick out a drivable course to a preset destination. Cup holders optional.
Some robots sit in labs for researchers to tinker with. These two bots are on frickin' Mars. Expected to last only three months when they touched down on the Red Planet in January 2004, the rovers are still going strong two years later - each sends back 100 megabits of data a day.
Hink this is a hunk of plastic that won't fetch a tennis ball? Think again. It's actually an advanced piece of robotics that won't fetch a tennis ball. Introduced in 1999, AIBO is one of the most sophisticated toys on the market. It can find its docking station, recognize its owner's face, and respond to voice commands.
Not all NASA robots drive around poking at rocks. This android will one day work alongside people on space stations. Robonaut is the same size and shape as a person in a space suit, so it can handle tasks typically performed by humans - its hands are even better articulated than an astronaut's gloved digits. The fact that it looks like Boba Fett? Lucky coincidence.
Creeped out by bug bots? How about bug bots that can learn? In 1988, Rodney Brooks' lab at MIT created this six-legged walker, which taught itself how to scramble over boards and other obstacles. The secret: Allow each leg to react to the environment independently and you won't need to program every complex step.
Asimo? A pipsqueak. Before Honda's much-hyped biped was touring the world, there was P2, a 6-foot, 462-pound prototype. Unveiled in 1996, P2 possessed most of Asimo's walking skills - including the ability to climb stairs - making it, as Honda puts it "the first self-regulating, two-legged humanoid walking robot."
Way back in 1495, Leonardo DA Vinci designed what was probably the first robot - an automated suit of armor with a windup crank. It could sit up, wave its hands, and maybe even talk. Five hundred years later, engineer Mark Rosheim used the master's schematics to build a working miniaturized version.
Bipedal robots that can walk up stairs seem flatfooted compared with the running, jumping, and traditional-Japanese-fan-dancing Qrio. Officially, Sony uses its state-of-the-art androids, debuted in 2003, as corporate ambassadors. But the company may one day sell them for entertainment. Works for Beck: The singer recently used all six Qrios in his video for "Hell Yes"