In selecting the material for this site, I tend to include everything. Even though it seems obvious that some device is hopelessly science-fictional, I put it in anyway. For example, in the 1961 novel Time is the Simplest Thing, Clifford Simak describes a device called a taper. It is used in space exploration; the operator controls it from a great distance with his mind. The robot goes to and fro, collecting data with its sensors, as he directs it:
His treads left no tracks upon the floor as they had left tracks upon the sand dunes before he'd come upon this dwelling place, if that was what it was...
The floor was hard and smooth and of a bright blue color and a very easy for him to roll on. His pace slowed to a crawl, his treads whispering on the floor, his sensors out and working, and the whirring of the tape that sucked up sight and sound and shape and smell and form, recording temperature and time and magnetics and all the other phenomena which existed on this planet.
What is the point of including a device like that in a site devoted to science fictional precursors and predictions of technology?
(Telepresence robot controlled by the mind)
An experimental telepresence robot created by Italian and Swiss researchers uses its own smarts to make things easier for the person using it, a system dubbed shared control. The user tells the robot where to go via a brainwave-detecting headset, and the robot takes care of details like avoiding obstacles and determining the best route forward.
The robot is essentially a laptop mounted on a rolling baseóthe user sees the robotís surroundings via the laptopís webcam, and can converse with people over Skype.
To move the robot, users wear a skullcap studded with electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors, and imagine movements with their feet or hands. Each movement corresponds with a different command, such as forward, backward, left, or right. Software translates the different signals generated into actions for the robot.
However, the robotís control software decides for itself the best way to change trajectories and accelerate to get where it has been told to go. It has nine infrared sensors that alert it to obstacles, which it can move around while also following the userís directions.