The Robot Hall of Fame® inducted four robots chosen for the first time by a popular vote — Aldebaran Robotics’ NAO humanoid, iRobot’s PackBot bomb disposal robot, Boston Dynamics’ four-legged BigDog and WALL-E, the fictional robot of the namesake Pixar movie — during a ceremony Oct. 23 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.
“More than any previous class of inductees, this group of robots selected by popular vote represents contemporary robotics — robots at the cutting edge of technology — rather than older robots of strictly historical importance,” said Shirley Saldamarco, Robot Hall of Fame director and a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. “Two of our inductees, NAO and Packbot, are commercially available and BigDog is still the focus of active research. Even our fictional honoree, WALL-E, is from a movie that’s just four years old.”
More than 17,000 people across every continent except Antarctica participated in the online vote in August and September. The 12 nominees on this year’s ballot were chosen by a group of 107 robotics experts, industry leaders and aficionados selected by the Robot Hall of Fame (RHOF).
The RHOF, created in 2003 by Carnegie Mellon University, recognizes excellence in robotics technology. It honors both the fictional robots that inspire innovation and the real robots that embody it. In 2009, it was integrated into Carnegie Science Center’s roboworld™ exhibit.
The new inductees were elected in four categories: Education & Consumer; Entertainment; Industrial & Service; and Research.
NAO was inducted in the Education & Consumer category. An autonomous, programmable, humanoid robot developed by Aldebaran Robotics in 2006, the 22-inch-tall robot is used as an education platform and in the RoboCup robot soccer Standard Platform League. Other nominees in this category were iRobot’s CREATE and the VEX Robotics Design System.
In the Entertainment category, voters chose WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter – Earth Class), the lovable star of the 2008 Disney/Pixar blockbuster by the same name. In the movie, WALL-E inadvertently embarks on a space journey that ultimately decides the fate of mankind. Other nominees in this category were Rosie the maid from the cartoon series “The Jetsons” and Johnny 5 from the 1986 movie “Short Circuit.”
PackBot won in the Industrial & Service category. Created by iRobot, PackBot is one of the most successful battle-tested robots in the world. It performs bomb disposal and other dangerous missions for troops and first responders. More than 4,500 units are currently on station in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was one of the first robots to enter the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 tsunami. The other nominees were Kiva Systems’ autonomous warehouse robots and the Jason submersible from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Finally, BigDog was recognized in the Research category. This dynamically stable quadruped robot was created in 2005 by Boston Dynamics. It can traverse difficult terrain and run at 4 miles an hour while carrying 340 pounds and climbing a 35-degree incline. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has sponsored its development as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too tough for conventional vehicles. Other nominees were Willow Garage’s two-armed PR2 mobile robot and NASA’s Robonaut.
In addition to the Class of 2012 inductees, the ceremony also paid tribute to five jury-selected robots from the 2010 induction class: NASA Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity; iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner; the da Vinci Surgical System; the characters Huey, Dewey and Louie from the 1971 film “Silent Running”; and T-800, the character played by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator” film series.
Presenters at the ceremony included Jared L. Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon; John Dulchinos, president and CEO of Adept Technology; Henry Thorne, chief technology officer of 4Moms; and Quasi, the robot character created by Interbots, a spinoff of CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center. Heather Knight, a Ph.D. student in CMU’s Robotics Institute, and her stand-up comedian robot, Data, performed during the event.
This year’s induction ceremony was celebrated in conjunction with the RoboBusiness Leadership Summit, a conference of hundreds of robotics industry leaders that is in Pittsburgh this week.
The Robot Hall of Fame induction is sponsored by Carnegie Mellon and its Entertainment Technology Center, Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Technology Council and RoboBusiness. The Robotics Institute, the world’s largest robotics research and education organization, is part of Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science. Information about the RHOF and previous winners is available at www.robothalloffame.org.
A slideshow of the event can be viewed here.
David Letterman gave a nod to the Robot Hall of Fame with his Oct. 26 CBS Late Show Top 10 List, Signs Your Robot Won't Be Inducted in the Robot Hall of Fame.