2128: New Robot
Title text: "Some worry that we'll soon have a surplus of search and rescue robots, compared to the number of actual people in situations requiring search and rescue. That's where our other robot project comes in..."
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a "Search and Rescue" Robot that can teleport but not discern where it is or what's around it. See discussion for article criticism. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
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The comic is a commentary on how many robots and engineering products are labeled as being for “Search and Rescue” purposes.
Search And Rescue (SAR) involves entering an unknown, possibly hazardous disaster-stricken environment, identifying humans or other items of interest which may be hidden, partly (or completely) buried, or injured, and then figuring out how to safely extract the target and deliver it to safety. These tasks are hard enough for humans, and are even more challenging for robots, which generally work better in well-controlled situations. This is why many robot challenges are themed around search-and-rescue, because the techniques that are developed for handling such challenging circumstances can be applied to make other robots (such as robotic caretakers, autonomous cars, AI-assisted medicine, and other lucrative applications) more robust.
The comic may be remarking that 'search and rescue' may be used as a cover for developing robots which will actually be tasked to 'search and destroy'. (See: lethal autonomous weapons.) Although search-and-rescue is a function that militaries perform, a robot which can satisfactorily perform a search-and-rescue task can easily be adapted to more destructive purposes. Randall has previously written about his concerns about human authorities misusing military robots in 1968: Robot Future.
Additionally, the robot depicted here is entirely unsuitable for search-and-rescue, because it features a fragile balloon and frequent electrical discharges (which are bad enough for humans, but would also have a risk of causing explosions if there are gas leaks in the disaster zone). These are also flaws from a military perspective. Randall may be remarking on the tendency to use 'clickbaity' ('grantbaity') terminology to drum up support for research that funding agencies or the public might not otherwise support. "Cures cancer" is another such catchphrase.
The Hookshot is a type of grappling hook that is a recurring piece of equipment in The Legend of Zelda video game franchise, first appearing in the 1991 game The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It is a machine consisting of a chain and hook, which can be used by Link, the protagonist and player character of Zelda. When used, the chain extends and sends the hook attached to it towards its target. If the hook latches onto certain objects, Link reels himself in towards that object. Link can also use it to pull enemies and objects towards him. Although it is referred to by the traditional 'Hookshot' name, the traditional hookshot involves a bladed tip that mounts in wood; the grappling gun equipped on the robot is more reminiscent of the later Clawshot, which grasps its target on contact.
In theory, the Hookshot-esque function of the robot could be used for anchoring purposes - a useful function for a flying robot in search-and-rescue situations. If it is using a Clawshot design, it could also conceivably seize the parties in need of rescue. However, merely by comparing the grappling device to the Hookshot, it is clear that it's attachment was specifically designed in an effort to replicate the game's tool.
The title text ominously suggests that since there are more rescue robots than required for the number of people needing rescue, another robot project will be used to place people in need of rescue, or destroy search-and-rescue robots.
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
- [Ponytail is standing on a raised platform with a robot behind her, talking to someone off-screen. The spherical floating robot is equipped with an antenna that "zaps" a lightning bolt at the floor below it and a grappling gun.]
- Ponytail: Our robot floats using a helium sphere, which is highly charged and can induce lightning strikes.
- Ponytail: It moves using a grappling gun like the hook shot from Zelda.
- Off-screen voice: What is the robot for?
- Ponytail: Uh
- Ponytail: It could help with search and rescue after disasters.
- [Caption below the panel:]
- "It could help with search and rescue" is engineer-speak for "we just realized we need a justification for our cool robot."
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