- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

The robot could lead to the downfall of civilization, as prophetically presented in the “Terminator” and “Matrix” films, or accomplish amazing things, such as sending a man to the moon.

In recognition of these thinking machines and what they have done for mankind both in fact and in fiction, Carnegie Mellon University has created a hall of fame for history’s most notorious robots and their creators, along with a complementary Web site to explain their achievements.

Robot Hall of Fame

Site address: www.robothalloffame.org

Creator: The Robot Hall of Fame Web site is powered by Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science in Pittsburgh, an international leader in robotics research, technology and innovation.

Creator quotable: “We created this site as a way to communicate with anyone in the world interested in robots,” says James H. Morris, dean of the university’s School of Computer Science. “Robots themselves, as of yet, do not have egos, so our purpose is not to stroke the robots or their creators. Rather, the Robot Hall of Fame and its Web site are ways to educate the public about the contributions of robots to human endeavor and to honor the science-fiction robots that inspired those achievements.”

Word from the Webwise: The site will not overwhelm with content because this is the hall of fame’s first year, but it does an adequate job of presenting the 2003 inductees: NASA’s Mars Pathfinder Microrover Flight Experiment (MFEX), known as Sojourner; Unimate, the first industrial robot; R2-D2 from the “Star Wars” movies; and the misunderstood HAL-9000 computer, featured in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Each inductee gets its own page, which contains a short biography, photo album, highlights of its existence and a three-dimensional look at its structure, revealed by dragging a cursor around an image.

So in the case of the Unimate, visitors learn that it was the brainchild of inventors George Devol and Joseph Engelberger, it weighs 4,000 pounds and joined the assembly line at General Motors in 1961 to work with heated die-cast machines. The page also offers a link to the company that rebuilds Unimates (www.ar2.com/ar2pages/uni1961.htm) and shows photos of Mr. Engelberger and the robot in actionas well as the hall of fame plaque listing its induction.

Also available online are the biographies of the 12 judges and moderator who make final nominations based on various sources, including visitor input on the Web site. It was nice to see that legendary science-fiction author Arthur C. Clark is one of the decision-makers.

Ease of use: The site supports Linux, Solaris, Windows and Mac computers as long as they are running a Web browser that is Windows Netscape 4.75 compatible using the Macromedia Flash plug-in. The site has a sophisticated detection code that actually sees the visitor’s operating system and responds to the requirements of that computer and operating system.

Don’t miss: For the definitive source on R2-D2 and its role in the “Star Wars” saga, the page lists a link to the official “Star Wars” Web site’s databank (www.starwars.com/databank/droid/), which not only goes into great detail on the astromech droid’s adventures, but also provides background on 45 other robots from the galaxy far, far away.

Elements on the horizon: Jayne Adair, special assistant to the dean, says a real-time ranking of robots nominated on the Web site will be added, as well as opportunities to chat with the creators of the inducted robots.

Comprehension level: The site is best-suited to a general audience with at least a fourth-grade reading level.

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Verify the advice on the sites to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the science or technology fan? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail ([email protected]).

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