Rise Of The Unionized Robots

For the first time, a robot has been unionized. This shouldn’t be too surprising as a European Union resolution has already recommended creating a legal status for robots for purposes of liability and a robot has already been made a citizen of one country. Naturally, these have been done either to stimulate discussion before reality catches up or as publicity stunts.

Dum-E spraying Tony StarkWhat would reality have to look like before a robot should be given legal status similar to that of a human? For that, we can look to fiction.

Tony Stark, the fictional lead character in the Iron Man movies, has a robot called Dum-E which is little more than an industrial robot arm. However, Stark interacts with it using natural language and it clearly has feelings which it demonstrates from its posture and sounds of sadness when Stark scolds it after needlessly sprays Stark using a fire extinguisher. In one movie Dum-E saves Stark’s life while making sounds of compassion. And when Stark makes Dum-E wear a dunce cap for some unexplained transgression, Dum-E appears to get even by shooting something at Stark. So while Dum-E is a robot assistant capable of responding to natural language, something we’re sure Hackaday readers would love to have in our workshops, it also has emotions and acts on its own volition.

Here’s an exercise to try to find the boundary between a tool and a robot deserving of personhood.

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3D-Printed Robot Golem Only a Tiny Bit Creepy

ASPIR, the Autonomous Support and Positive Inspiration Robot is an goblin-sized robot, designed by [John Choi], aims to split the difference between smaller hobbyist robots and more robust but pricy full-sized humanoids only a research institute could afford. By contrast, [John] estimates it cost a relatively meager $2,500 to create such a homunculus.

The robot consists of 33 servos of various types moving the limb, controlled by an Arduino Mega with a servo control shield seated on it. The chassis uses 5 kg of filament and took 300 hours to print, and it has a skeleton made up of aluminum hex rods. Spring-loaded RC shocks help reinforce the shoulders. There are some nice touches, like 3D-printed hands with living hinge fingers, each digit actuated by a metal-gear micro servo. It stores its power bricks in its shins. For sensors it includes a chest-mounted webcam and a laser distance sensor.

The main design feature is the Android smartphone serving as its brains, and also — at least cosmetically — its eyes. Those eyes… might be just a teensy bit too Chucky for our taste. (Nice work, [John]!)