Entry Six: R2-D2 to Marvin
CIMON® may have been inspired by R2-D2, but his lineage can be traced to well before everyone’s favorite droid made his 1979 big-screen debut. The long line of CIMON®’s on screen predecessors began with the 1956 sci-fi adventure Forbidden Planet and Robby the Robot, a walking, talking, clanking aide-de-camp for a crew of space travelers stranded in an alien world. There had been robots on screen before, of course, but Robby was new: a helpful, endearing, personality-driven character.
After Robby came Star Wars, RoboCop and The Iron Giant … today CIMON® also boasts the language skills of C-3PO, the conversation abilities of Marvin (from the Hitchhiker’s Guide series), the cuteness of Wall-E, and the technical know-how of HAL 9000, from 2001: A Space Odyssey—just, you know, without the evil part (Biniok remembers watching the latter film for the first time just before starting work on CIMON®, and thinking “...oh. That’s gonna be a big issue.”).
CIMON® wears his heritage proudly. Sophie Richter-Mendau, the architect of his personality, and Nina Fischer, his language teacher, loaded him with movie quotes from science fiction films—Easter eggs for his astronaut companions. If you say “I’ll give it a try,” CIMON® replies, “Do or do not—there is no try,” in his best Yoda voice. If you mention “phone home,” he’ll do a passable imitation of ET the extra-terrestrial. And if you ask him to “open the pod bay doors,” as Kubrick’s doomed astronauts do to HAL in a pivotal scene from 2001, CIMON® shifts his tone and replies (in jest), “I’m sorry, I cannot.”
For now, CIMON® won’t browse Wikipedia or IMDb to cross-reference his space-robot heritage. He has to rely on the snippets he remembers, just like us. But it’s all there: CIMON® embodies not just a legacy of robots dreamed up by screen pioneers, but a pathway to greater knowledge and higher capabilities for real-life technologies.