Hollywood’s robots get a life offscreen

Koichi Kamoshida | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

From RoboCop and Terminator to the more recent WALL·E, Hollywood has cornered the market in cool robots.

From helping out with everyday tasks to taking on jobs the average Joe wouldn't dream of doing, all these robots have been designed to carry out some sort of job—and sometimes what has appeared on the screen has found its way to the real world.

With that in mind, CNBC takes a look at how some of Hollywood's favorite cyborgs made it into the real world.

For more on this technological revolution, check out CNBC's Special Report on the "Rise of the Robots."

By CNBC's Alexandra Gibbs on Friday April 10 2015.


Credit: ©Knightscope, Inc. 2015

Movie: RoboCop

"RoboCop" is one of the 1980s' most iconic movies, featuring a police officer named Alex Murphy who is transformed into an unbeatable cyborg cop in an effort to crack down on crime.

Made reality: Knightscope K5

Inspired by tragedies such as the Sandy Hook shooting and Boston Marathon bombing, Silicon Valley start-up Knightscope has designed an autonomous robot to help thwart crime.

The Knightscope K5 robot has a "commanding but friendly physical security presence" and collects real-time data using sensors. If there is a threat, it sends a notification with an appropriate danger level to authorities.

Use of the basic version of the cyborg costs $6.25 per hour.

Factory workers

The Baxter robot is an adaptive, affordable machine that’s being used on more shop floors.
Source: Rethink Robotics

Movie: I, Robot

"I, Robot," depicts a dystopian future in which humanoid, fully automated robots serve humanity. Each is designed to assist in all tasks, while abiding by the "three laws of robotics".

The movie is based on an Isaac Asimov collection of short stories.

Made reality: Baxter

In 2012, Rethink Robotics, a robotics development company based in Boston, showed the world "Baxter."

Baxter is designed to works alongside factory workers in tasks including handling packages.

The robot is already used in many U.S. companies, including The Rodon Group, a plastic fabrication company. Prices start at $25,000 per robot.

Rethink Robotics is also designing 'Sawyer', a one-armed smaller robotic version of Baxter.

Health care assistants

MEDi the robot.

Movie: Big Hero 6

Released in 2014, Disney's "Big Hero 6" is the story of a boy's friendship with Baymax, an oversized, inflatable robot. Created by the protagonist's brother, Baymax's initial job role is to support, look after and diagnose ill people.

The film was inspired by a comic book series that first appeared in 1998.

Made reality: MEDi

When it comes to visiting the nurse, MEDi is your kid's new best friend, acting as their companion and educating them as to the need for medical procedures.

Its interaction with children during procedures reduces their stress and discomfort by up to 50 percent, according to the company that designed MEDi, RxRobots.

Another robotics developer, Aethon, has developed "TUG," the robot that transports medical equipment around hospitals.

Pretend pets

Source: Boston Dynamics

Movie: Wallace & Gromit: A Close Shave

One of the most terrifying creatures in the Wallace and Gromit franchise is Preston: The cyber dog who's out to cause destruction.

Made reality: Spot

This year, engineering and robotics design business, Boston Dynamics unveiled its latest robot: Spot, the robotic dog.

In a recently broadcast video, Spot is shown mimicking the movements of a dog, climbing stairs and running. He's a lot less scary than Preston.

Boston Dynamics has also made similar, yet larger prototypes, including LS3, a "rough-terrain robot" designed to help soldiers carry loads. There's also Cheetah and BigDog.

Female companions

Andrew Francis Wallace | Toronto Star | Getty Images

Film: Stepford Wives

Based on Ira Levin's satirical thriller "The Stepford Wives", both Bryan Forbes' (1975) and Frank Oz's (2004) film adaptations sent shivers down viewers' spines, and taught them to fear "the perfect housewife."

The story features a set of submissive and eerily beautiful housewives in Stepford, Connecticut, who the newly arrived female protagonist fears have been brainwashed or replaced by robots.

Made reality: Aiko

Meet Aiko: a feminine humanoid robot billed by "Project Aiko" as embodying "when science meets beauty."

Inventor Le Trung, who lives in Canada, started working on Aiko in August 2007 with the use of a "Bio Robot Artificial Intelligence Neural System" (BRAINS).

The first version of Aiko (which means "beloved one"), interacts with humans and can speak more than 13,000 sentences, read books and do mathematics, according to the Project Aiko website.

Le Trung is currently working on a second prototype: Aiko V2.


Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Movie: The Fifth Element

Set predominantly in the 23rd century, Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element" (1997) is a science fiction thriller in which Bruce Willis saves the world. Filled with flying cars, aliens and futuristic weapons, it wouldn't be complete without a robot barman, who not only pours drinks but listens to customers' woes.

Made reality: Royal Caribbean's Bionic mixologists

What better way to spend a holiday cruise than with a bartender that won't give you attitude. So meet the mixologists on the Royal Caribbean Cruises' Quantum of the Seas cruise ship.

The ship's "Bionic Bar" is operated by two robotic bartenders, who serve up to 30 cocktail choices that can be selected from an electronic menu.

The bartenders were created by Makr Shakr, a company collaborating with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s SENSEable City Laboratory.


Andy Cross | Denver Post | Getty Images

Movie: Star Wars

As robots, C-3PO and R2D2 may be important characters in the Star Wars franchise, but battle droids are also prominent in the military scenes in "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones."

Another film featuring "military robots" is "Short Circuit" (1986), in which Johnny Five is designed by the U.S. military and gains more human-like intelligence after being struck by lightening.

Made reality: QinetiQ's robots

U.K.-based QinetiQ is a defense technology company that has developed robots for bomb disposal and other security and military purposes.

Take MAARS, for example, a robot developed in partnership with the U.S. army and marine corps. The automaton is predominantly used for investigating military terrain unsafe for personnel, but can also be equipped with a grenade launcher, machine gun and non-lethal laser dazzlers.


iRobot Roomba 880
Source: iRobot

Movie: WALL-E

Disney Pixar's "WALL-E" depicts a future world in which the human race has abandoned Earth, leaving it to be cleaned up by machines. The eponymous WALL-E is a sentient robot with a designated role a trash compactor, who falls in love with another robot, Mo, who cleans and vacuums.

Made reality: iRobot

U.S. tech company, iRobot, has created a series of cleaning robots. They're perhaps not as cute and cuddly as the characters in WALL-E, but Roomba 880 (costs $898) hoovers, Braava 380t ($449) mops and Scooba 450 ($972) scrubs.

Other vacuuming robots include the Dyson 360 Eye, the Miele Scout RXi and Samsung's Smart Tango Corner Clean.


BSIP/UIG | Universal Images Group | Getty Images

Movie: Class of 1999

In 1990, Mark L. Lester released a science fiction horror film called "Class of 1999". The movie depicts a school that sorts out its unruly students by replacing their teachers with robots.

Made reality: NAO robot

Created by Aldebaran Robotics in 2006, NAO is a 58-centimeter tall humanoid robot that works as a "friendly companion" in the education sector.

NAO is "small, cute and round" and can be used from elementary school to university. The robot has already been used to teach math, Russian and even help autistic children in Birmingham, U.K.