Roving Robotic Reporter

In his excellent 1965 novel The Zap Gun, Philip K. Dick dealt with the subject of an intrepid robotic reporter:

"Mr. Lars, sir."

"I'm afraid I only have a moment to talk to your viewers. Sorry." He started on, but the autonomic TV interviewer, camera in its hand, blocked his path. The metal smile of the creature glittered confidently...

"Look," he said, this time gently, as if the autonomic interviewer were really alive and not merely an arbitrarily endowed sentient concoction of the ingenuity of Wes-block technology of A.D. 2004...
(Read more about the autonomic interviewer)

It turns out that Dick was only off by a couple of years. In 2002, Chris Csikszentmihalyi, director of the Computing Culture Group at MIT, came up with the idea of a robot reporter to gather news in hazardous environments.


(From Afghan Explorer robotic reporter)

"It is a personal media device for independent news agencies that can't afford hundreds of editors and reporters," he explained. "They can imprison it, shoot it. I don't care. It is just a robot, its feelings can't get hurt."

The Afghan Explorer was modelled on NASA's Mars Explorer robots. It has four wheels, uses solar power and finds its way to important stories with a GPS navigation unit.

Unlike Philip K. Dick's autonomic interviewer, the Afghan Explorer is remote-controlled. However, it does allow reporters to control its movements and then to conduct an interview via satellite phone. A video console mounted on the "neck" of the device has two web cameras.

Via BBC and Wired.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/25/2007)

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