Airline Antics With Lara The Robot


Lara, the robot pictured above, is the first humanoid robot to pass security and have her own seat on a plane. The reason she had to travel via airline was that FedEx had lost and damaged her on previous trips. On the way back from Robofest, which she placed 5th in, security didn’t really want to let her on the plane. They’re lucky they didn’t all get detained. Fortunately, Robofest made the news and one guard had seen it. They call Lara autonomous, but state that she can only move her limbs based on commands. Their reason for calling her autonomous is that she doesn’t need to be tethered to a computer to do this. Does that really qualify as autonomy?

37 thoughts on “Airline Antics With Lara The Robot

  1. the definition of Automomy is “The condition or quality of being autonomous; independence” so I guess technically it is “independent” from a computer but that’s a bit of a stretch

    1st post

  2. I thought the consensus was that the LED-woman was arrested more for being a smart-arse when questioned about her miscellaneous electronics and play-dough, than for the fact she actually had them with her?

  3. This type of robot would fall more under tele-operation, where the user is in one location, and the robot is in another, but the user has control over the robot.

    Autonomous would require the robot to have some decision making skills and no human interaction.

    On the other hand, by combining some decision making AI with sparse human interaction would categorize the robot as semi-autonomous.

  4. wow so i could have put together a lego mindstorm setup quick and got 5’th in a robot contest, sweet.

    on a side note i see samual jacksons next movie “robots on a plane” and his quote of the movie “I’ve had it with these motherf****** robots on this motherf****** plane!”

  5. It’s not, but the “autonomous” aspect would be what we’d find in a human, I’d define it as the ability to navigate on its own for a significant time. This is a human with a full lobotomy of everything above the brain stem (a vegetable with a few reflexive reactions).

  6. I went to their web site and didn’t see a video that shows the robot standing up with its own power. In fact there is no video of the robot doing anything! I guess the NXT controllers on the robot is for show? If it is not moving, walking etc. this is not a robot, they might as well used one of the legomans…

  7. @xoring
    That’s not particularly different, but it’s not a human’s ability to follow orders that makes them autonomous, it’s their ability to ignore them, and do it’s own thing. Or are you not familiar with how humans work?

    I agree with most that calling this “Autonomous” because it is battery powered is ridiculous. It’s just being used a buzzword, and that’s really annoying. A roomba is far more autonomous than this thing.


  8. How is command->movement in a robot different from stimulus->response in a human?

    surely a human decides to react on its own accord, where as a command from a person sent via a computer is completely different?

    if we throw a ball at this thing it’ll do nothing unless told to do so, but if you throw a ball at your mate, he decides to catch it, duck or do nothing by making his own decission.

  9. @taylor (and co.): So what you’re saying is for a human it’s more like stimulus->some rules-based analysis and decision making->response?

    So if they added some algorithm to have the robot decide on-the-fly how to react to the ball, would that make it autonomous?

    To be clear, this is a different question than AI. This is whether or not the robot is operating independently or is merely tool that is being directly controlled by an outside intelligence.

    Since the actual signal to move the arms is coming from an on-board computer (in response to an external stimulus) I would argue that it is acting autonomously. Yes, it’s primitive, but that doesn’t invalidate it.

  10. This article is from the same Robofest competition I was at. I saw that thing. After asking him what its purpose was he said it was a “girl robot” that was “anatomically correct” …. wow… great answer =/, go have a seat in the corner please.

    its a pathetic robot, it sits in a wheel chair, and they bought it a seat!?!? wtf

  11. @ sceptic – I’d rather be looking at the robot than the plumber’s ass any day… even if the robot isn’t smart enough to be autonomous.

    *tries in vain to erase that image*

  12. @xoring “since the actual signal to move the arms is coming from an on-board computer (in response to an external stimulus) i would argue that it is acting autonomously.”

    What? No. Low level control signals sent from a controller have nothing do to with autonomy, especially if the controller is just doing what it’s told.

    If your reasoning were even close to sensible, we would consider our cars autonomous because the engine computer is what is really telling the throttle to respond, our foot simply moves the throttle sensor (well, on drive-by-wire cars like VW’s) and the computer “decides” to give the car gas. that’s absurd reasoning.

    pauldy said it (harshly) best. knowing nothing else about these kids, insisting on calling it autonomous because it is wireless is basically them wanting to sound smarter by saying they made an autonomous robot. instead they sound like dropouts that don’t get it.


  13. To be fair, they are high-school students not tech school dropouts.. but yeah, they still don’t get it. I’m guessing their lead teacher doesn’t get it either.
    Justification for calling it anatomically correct includes having skeletal, muscular, and nervous systems.
    You mean.. a mechanical ridged moving structure, electro-mechanical actuators, and a sensor system… so, again, my car is anatomically correct. So is the internet.
    A system that responds to verbal commands and gestures (I am assuming nothing more than waving your hand over an IR detector.. If I throw up a gang sign, and it pulls out a gun and gun and shoots me, then I would count that complex gesture recognition) does not make it autonomous.. Auto*MATIC*.. yes.. auto*NOMOUS*.. no

    I had noticed a while back that not only were hackers getting their terminology *way* wrong, but so were popular electronics and robotics magazines. In fact, I pointed it out on hackaday a couple of times on projects, and got bashed for it.
    HAD should do a short on properly defining the terms… and refused to link any projects that get there terminology way out of left field just to for bragging/publicity sake, unless the site makes the appropriate corrections.

  14. So, does that ‘bot look more “Terminator” to you,or more “Lego?”

    It looks miserable in that wheelchair, looking up as if to say, “Please unplug me. I’ll never be top of the line again.”

  15. Autonomy is more of a scale than an absolute: considering absolute autonomy is not something we allow humans to be (self governing).

    However, I think to call an agent autonomous requires more than an ability to navigate. It has to have the ability to decide what to do when, possibly within a set of deontic constraints (like the law).

  16. Helps the airline industry if people buy tickets for mannequins, although it might not help in meeting CO2 emission goals perhaps, on the other hand planes actually have less pollution than cars/trucks per mile (a truth that’s well documented but so counter-intuitive that newsreporters, even in the science field, are unable to get it in their skulls), but anyway – it’s better than shipping via landtransport.

  17. My “Jak the blackjack playing robot” was in this same competition (featured here on Hackaday awhile back).

    The people who won first prize built lego instruments powered by NXT’s, I am still unsure of the validity of the instruments in an autonomous robotics competition.

    Much like this robot, it didn’t appear autonomous. I think that robofest needs to tighten their guidelines regarding entries to the competition.

  18. I’ve met the kids in person and they’re knowledgeable. True the “aim” of the project was wayy off, but for what they did, it was an accomplishment, bash the competition but don’t downplay the fact that they went that far and placed.

  19. @ 3nigmat1c

    true,nationals at Robofest is certainly an accomplishment.

    I just wish those little squash courts weren’t so small and hot, it made finding all the crazy entries alot harder. they ahd robots in the hallways =/

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