PITTSBURGH--Carnegie Mellon University will induct four famous robots into its newly established Robot Hall of Fame at 8 p.m., this evening, at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center. Two of the robots represent scientific breakthroughs, while the other two come from the realm of science fiction.
The robots to be honored in this first annual Hall of Fame event include NASA's Mars Pathfinder Microrover Flight Experiment (MFEX), better known as "Sojourner"; Unimate, the first industrial robot; R2-D2, the unforgettable droid from the Star Wars movie trilogy; and the evil HAL-9000 computer, featured in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," created by science fiction writer and futurist Sir Arthur C. Clarke and director Stanley Kubrick.
The robots' creators or others close to them will accept a certificate in their honor. Jacob R. Matijevic of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory will accept for the Sojourner rover. Matijevic was responsible for the implementation, integration, delivery and eventual operation of Sojourner on Mars. Joseph F. Engelberger, described as "the father of robotics," whose company Unimation installed the first robots on a General Motors assembly line in 1961, will accept for Unimate. Kathleen Holliday, director of special programs at Lucasfilm, will accept for R2-D2, and finally there will be a message on behalf of "HAL" from Arthur C. Clarke, who lives in Sri Lanka.
Two key actors from the original Star Wars trilogy will also be on hand for the celebration David Prowse, who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars Trilogy, and Kenny Baker who played R2-D2 in the first Star Wars episode.
A Robot Hall of Fame Web site www.robothalloffame.org  developed by Wall-to-Wall Studios of Pittsburgh, will be unveiled at the ceremony.
The Robot Hall of Fame was established earlier this year to honor noteworthy robots, both real and fictional, along with their creators in recognition of the increasing benefits robots are bringing to society.
"Our goal is to create a permanent, interactive exhibition involving robots that will educate and entertain a wide variety of audiences," said James H. Morris, dean of Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science who conceived the Hall of Fame concept. Morris put together a panel of 13 experts, drawn from organizations around the world, to choose the robots to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Each of them will serve a two-year term.
Anyone may suggest a robot for the Hall of Fame. This time, the jury made its final selections from a field of 32 nominees via an international Web conference last September. The robots that received the highest number of votes will be inducted tonight.The criteria for choosing the robots depend on whether they are scientific, fictional or entertainment-oriented. Scientific robots must have served an actual or potentially useful function and demonstrated real skills in accomplishing the purpose for which they were created. Robots created to entertain must be functioning autonomous devices and have achieved a significant audience. Fictional robots should have achieved worldwide fame as fictional characters and helped to form our opinions about the function and value of all robots.
"It's fitting that the Robot Hall of Fame is located here in Pittsburgh at the home of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute," said Chuck Thorpe, the institute's director. "We have been doing research in many areas of robotics for nearly 25 years and have helped to focus attention on this field that has so much potential to help people. Next year the Robotics Institute will celebrate its 25th anniversary. We will hold the next induction ceremony at that celebration, which takes place from Oct. 13-16, 2004."
Byron Spice | 412-268-9068 | bspice [atsymbol] cs.cmu.edu