a selection that evokes sympathy and sadness among “leather bags”

Robots are needed to perform work that is difficult or impossible for our hands. Even though the iron helpers have no soul, their stories can evoke sympathy and sadness in us. Below the cut we talk about various robots that have worked, and some continue to work, for the benefit of humanity. But their stories are really a little sad. Details are under the cut.

Curiosity rover

Right now, Curiosity is crawling across the lifeless red surface of Mars. This electronic-mechanical researcher has been working on the red planet for more than 10 years. It sends photographs of the surface of Mars, takes and analyzes soil and rock samples, and sends all the collected data to Earth, where scientists analyze it.

2013 marked one year since Curiosity landed on Mars. In honor of this occasion, NASA engineers decided to program the robot’s vibration platform to celebrate the occasion. Then, at a distance of more than 55 million kilometers from Earth, Curiosity played “Happy birthday to you” for itself all alone. 10 years have passed since then, but the robot’s energy supply is limited, so each subsequent birthday passed without a festive song.

In 2022, engineers at robotic lawn mower company Husqvarna decided to use a security module to celebrate the rover’s 10th anniversary. “This is an opportunity for us to pay tribute to Nasa’s great engineering work. And besides, no one should sing themselves a song on their birthday, right?” said Björn Manefred, Husqvarna robotics and software manager. Then, on August 5, the programmed lawn mowers sang a congratulatory song in unison for Curiosity, and the company shot a video with their participation. Of course, this is PR, but if other companies did something similar, it’s unlikely that anyone would be annoyed by advertising.

HitchBOT

In 2015, a group of Canadian researchers began a social experiment called HitchBOT. A friendly robot wearing boots sat on the side of the road asking drivers for a ride. The scientists’ goal was to study the interaction of people with the robot during its hitchhiking journey from Boston to San Francisco and find out whether HitchBOT’s fate can be entrusted to people and whether people will trust/treat the robot normally.

“Please pick me up and put me in your car!” – HitchBOT said to potential travel companions. “I want to experience the American Dream.” I have clean shoes and a wish list.” People were encouraged to give the robot a ride and pass it on to other strangers, or simply leave it on the side of the road. The first two weeks of travel went well, until the robot arrived in Philadelphia. There, his “American dream” was broken, like the robot itself. He was found decapitated and without arms. At this point the journey was interrupted.

Before this incident, engancheBOT had already traveled through Canada and Germany without any trouble. But Philadelphia was suspicious of the good-natured metal traveler.

Consumer Report Flipper Robot

Consumer Report takes a very responsible approach to product reviews, which it publishes monthly in its publication. When Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Flip5 earlier this year, Consumer Report decided to put the phone through its paces for a final review. A robot was created, or rather a robotic arm, whose sole purpose was to continuously open and close the front cover of the gadget. And so 30 thousand times.

Imagine a world in which such a profession existed. And although the robotic hand is inanimate, we can imagine an alternative scenario in which it experiences certain emotions. It would be sad to think that the whole purpose of your existence is opening and closing the lid of a new phone.

It’s probably worth remembering the robot from “Rick and Morty,” whose only task was to supply butter for spreading on bread.

RoboCop NYPD

If there’s one thing Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, loves more than illegal donations from the Turkish government to his campaign, it’s the police. Adams is a former police captain himself, and takes pleasure in giving expensive gifts to his former colleagues.

Prior to this, the measure gave Spot robots from Boston Dynamics in the amount of $750 thousand. The experiment was not the most successful – activists opposed the robots because of their possible surveillance of people on the city streets. Now Eric Adams has allocated funds from the city budget to rent a real RoboCop or robot policeman named K5. For two months he patrols the busiest subway station in Time Square in the center of New York.

The robot is on loan from Knightscope. K5 weighs about 200 kg and is about 1.50 meters tall. RoboCop can also record video in high definition using a camera with a 360-degree view. At the same time, the robot does not make sounds and does not use facial recognition technology. The city mayor is confident that the use of such technologies is cheaper than human labor and will help save thousands of dollars in the budget.

RoboCop’s work schedule is from 12 midnight to 6 am, and an hour of his work “costs” only $9. We can only be glad that K5 has no feelings.

Robots of Chernobyl

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster was one of the worst man-made events of the 20th century. This marked the beginning of complex and dangerous work in the exclusion zone, where robots were also involved. The territory of the nuclear power plant and the city needed to be cleaned of radioactive waste, but there were no methods of protection for humans. Anyone who approached the exclusion zone was doomed to death.

A wheeled reconnaissance robot equipped with a television camera and a dosimeter for the range from 50 to 10,000 R/h.  Controlled and powered via cable.  It was complemented by a similar machine RR-2, which was replaced by modified versions of RR-3 and RR-4.

A wheeled reconnaissance robot equipped with a television camera and a dosimeter for the range from 50 to 10,000 R/h. Controlled and powered via cable. It was complemented by a similar machine RR-2, which was replaced by modified versions of RR-3 and RR-4.

The Soviet government sent 60 robots to clear the areas. Many of them were never able to reach their goal – electronics and batteries failed due to exposure to radiation.

“It turned out that robots cannot solve all the tasks,” said Valery Legasov, academician of the Institute of Atomic Energy. Kurchatov in 1987. “Where there was a high level of radiation, the robot ceased to be a robot, the electronics failed.” Additionally, the first robots shipped were ineffective for working on building roofs.

Thus, some robots not only did not fulfill their plans, but turned into an additional expensive pile of nuclear waste.

Cassini-Huygens

Cassini-Huygens is an automatic interplanetary station created jointly by NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency to study the planet Saturn, its rings and moons. After traveling millions of kilometers, Cassini reached the planet’s orbit in 2004. For 13 years the ship revolved around Saturn and allowed people to make revolutionary discoveries. But the existence of the interplanetary station was limited.

NASA engineers sent Cassini on its final mission, called Grand Finale. Namely – for a collision with Saturn. This would avoid possible contamination of the planet’s satellites, which could potentially have the presence of life species. On September 15, 2017, Cassini entered Saturn’s atmosphere and burned up, leaving behind nearly 20 years of abandoned work for the benefit of humanity.

These are just a few stories, in fact there are many more. The fate of robots and robotic systems can also evoke emotions, even though they are “soulless creatures.” Perhaps you can share some stories of this kind? If so, tell us something interesting in the comments!

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