It’s Alive . . . ALIVE!

Grandmaster Isaac Asimov, the late science fiction author and legend of the genre, is credited with the invention of the words “Robot,” “Robotics,” and “psychohistory.”  He derived the word Robot, in his own words, from a Russian folk tale which told of “rovots,” animated golems of a sort. 

Asimov’s first story in what is now Science Fiction’s legendary Robot series, Robbie, was the tale of a little girl and her robot companion named Robbie.  This story eventually became the opening story for Asimov’s robot anthology entitled I, Robot, upon whose characters the movie of the same name was very loosely based.  Robbie, you may note, was a mute robot originally intended to be a nursemaid (or nanny) for the little girl, and in short order becomes her best friend and confidant. Philip K. Dick, another classic scifi author, also wrote of a robot nanny in one of his stories.  

As they say, life imitates art.  While you’ve probably seen pictures of Asimo–Honda’s bipedal robot that can climb stairs and play a very slow soccer game–today comes news of PaPeRo, which is–you guessed it–a robot nanny. 

From PaPeRo has a built-in mobile phone; parents can call it and order the ‘bot to find the kids and play with them. Parents can also talk to children directly or with text messages via PaPeRo. “PaPeRo” is short for Partner-type Personal Robot; it uses a camera in each eye to navigate and has image recognition capabilities to track and identify individual children. The robot has a top speed of 20 centimeters per second, which designers (who apparently don’t have toddlers themselves) believe is sufficient to keep up with children. Child-care robot specifications are certainly improving, but we are not yet up to the level of science-fictional robot care-givers.

You’d think these things would be able to go at least as fast as a Segway if they hope to catch a toddler.  Still, the premise is intriguing, and I’ll be watching to see what they do next.  Incoming hate mail from Asimov purists in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

EDIT:  I knew it would happen.  I made a boo-boo and Asimov is not credited with the invention of the word “robot.”  The three words he is credited with are “robotics,” “psychohistory,” and “positronic.”  Also, the LiveScience story seems to be merely a reprint of a story from Technovelgy, a fascinating site in its own right.  That’s where the picture comes from as well.  Now I have to wonder, if Livescience is merely reprinting stories from other sites, am I better served by changing the RSS feed?


4 thoughts on “It’s Alive . . . ALIVE!

  1. Couple things. First, please don’t steal bandwidth from my site by grabbing the graphic without even giving me a link or story credit for the PaPeRo article. It’s not polite.

    Second, Isaac Asimov had nothing to do with the invention of the word ‘robot’, which was created for Karel Capek’s play R.U.R. in 1920, and is derived from ‘robota’, the czech noun for ‘labor’. See

  2. Actually, that may not be exactly true. Capek’s elder brother Josef Capek, both a writer and painter, is widely credited with first using the word in a short story of his, “Opilec”, which appeared in print in 1917. Karel himself attributes the word to his brother, if not in print, then in inspiration for naming Karel’s own automatic servants.

  3. ‘Robot’ does not appear in his brother’s story ‘Opilec’ – his brother uses ‘automat’. Karel Capek attributes the word to his brother in casual conversation. Anyway, Asimov had nothing to do with it, despite his wonderful robot stories.

  4. Firstly, Bill, sorry about that. I did mean to link it and used the wrong link for the article. I originally saw the story on Livescience and clicked thru them to your site. When I did, I noticed that their story was basically a reprint from your site, so decided to link to your site instead. I thought I had amended my post to include that, but it must have not taken. I’ll fix that today.

    Secondly, you’re right in that I misstated the three words Asimov coined. They were Robotics, Positronic, and Psychohistory.

    Mea Culpa.

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