Geeks, dweebs, nerds, and poindexters of the world, assemble, for I have a doozy of a question for you.
What is the difference between an Android and a Robot?
As we’ve previously discussed, I’m working on a science fiction novel, and seeking the advice of nerds everywhere for help. Don’t be offended by being called a nerd. It’s a badge of honor, really. Frankly, who wants advice about robotics from a non-nerd?
This is total nerd stuff, baby.
I find that in the science fiction world, the words “android” and “robot” are often used interchangeably. But should that be the case?
The best advice I’ve found thus far:
“A robot can, but does not necessarily have to be in the form of a human, but an android is always in the form of a human.”
– Edmond Woychowsky, TechRepublic – “The Difference Between Robots and Androids, 2010
Well, wait a minute. That sounds simple enough at first, but what about C3P0? He and his buddy RD2D are invariably referred to as “droids” in the Star Wars universe. Haven’t you heard the infamous line from Obi-Wan Kenobi, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for?”
C3P0 has a torso, arms, legs, a face with eyes, he is definitely modeled after a human, but he’s also built out of a golden colored metal, his arms and legs only move so much, his eyes are pretty much just sockets, and there’s just a slit where his mouth should be.
That’s not exactly a human, is it? What did Edmond have to say?
“It can be argued that an android should be able to pass as a human in natural light. So, if you subscribe to this belief, C-3PO from Star Wars and R. Giskard Reventlov from Isaac Asimov’s The Robots of Dawn are robots, not androids.”
Seriously? So George Lucas got something wrong? In addition to Jar Jar???
So, if you take this android vs. robot information seriously, then C3P0 is a robot. The robots from the film I, Robot, starring Will Smith, are robots (that’s a given, since they didn’t call it, I, Android).
Rosie, the Jetson family’s maid, is a robot. C3P0, Rosie, and the I, Robot bots, all might have human-inspired designs, but if you were to see them, you would say, “Hey, that’s a robot!”
Apparently, the question of whether an “artificial being” is a robot or an android boils down to whether or not you can tell when you first meet said being. As Woychowsky notes, Data from Star Trek: Next Generation, does appear to be a human, “albeit with an odd complexion.”
As an additional example, I would submit that Ash from the original Alien movie is an android. He was so passable as a human that this is actually a major plot point of the film – he was passing as a crew member but in secret, was an android with a special mission. For part of the film, the audience doesn’t even know he’s not a human.
So what say you, readers? I need your nerdy opinions, because the novel I am working on, and sadly, procrastinating on, might feature robots, or it might feature androids, but I want to make sure I’m using the right terminology so that my nerd credentials are not questioned.