Who are pop culture's nicest robots?
New research says we want robots to be like the polite ones in movies and on TV.
The study, conducted at Israel's Tel Aviv University, had volunteers interact with a robot who was checking people against a list as they entered a building. It didn't matter what age or gender the participant was, the more polite the robot was in denying them access, the more positively they thought of interaction with the droids that will be among us soon. The research will be presented to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's annual meeting in Los Angeles in late October.
This got us thinking about which robots in pop culture we'd like to interact with. Of course, we eliminated evil ones like the Daleks from "Doctor Who" immediately, and not just because their voices sound like someone yelling through a bullhorn at max volume. We also threw out Dot Matrix from "Spaceballs" because, as much as we love the late Joan Rivers, we don't need our robot friends giving us such blunt advice all the time.
So now onto the droids we love, for their unflagging politeness in the face of our very human frailties:
C-3PO and R2-D2 ('Star Wars')
Sure, C-3PO is a bit of a complainer who always sees the worst-case scenario, and R2-D2 just beeps. But the classic "Star Wars" droid duo are nice in their own ways: 3PO is programmed to be a butler who speaks many languages, and R2 will have no problem throwing his garbage can-shaped body into any situation, even if it means he'll get electrocuted or shot at.
Rosie ('The Jetsons')
The maid from "The Jetsons" is a bit of a meddler, and has a voice that sounds like she's had too many e-cigs. But whatever the family wants, she's eager to please. She's also a great friend to Elroy, and even puts up with Astro's shenanigans, all with the world-weary wisdom that every sitcom maid from the 1950s through the 1980s seemed to have.
Andrew Martin ('Bicentennial Man')
"Bicentennial Man" was a plodding, overwrought film, but who wouldn't want to have a robot servant like Andrew, played by Robin Williams? He became part of the Martin family, and all he wanted to do was become human. He eventually got his wish, and fell in love to boot.
Robby the Robot ('Lost in Space')
Will Robinson's buddy on "Lost in Space" didn't exactly use the most soothing voice, but he was always warning Will about the "DANGER! DANGER!" that was imminent. That's a pretty nice robot, if you ask us.
Lt. Commander Data ('Star Trek: The Next Generation')
Because he was free of emotions (at least he was until the movie "Star Trek Generations"), Data was the Enterprise's nicest officer by default. Even if he objected to whatever Picard and Riker were ordering him to do, his pushback was always reasoned and even-keeled. He serves as a lesson in how we all should deal with disagreements in the workplace.
Twiki ('Buck Rogers in the 25th Century')
Unlike Dot Matrix, the comic relief robot in the late 1970s "Buck Rogers"' series was just there to be Buck's loyal companion and carry around the canteen-shaped Dr. Theopolis. The fact that he had the voice of cartoon legend Mel Blanc was a bonus.
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