Let's Make Robots!

Robot Self Defense

Robots or biomorphs (robots modeled after living creatures) are commonly fragile especially as you move to a smaller scale. Roboticist Mark Tilden's 1st law of robotics states: "A robot must protect its existence at all costs." In the case of typical BEAM bots the small scale and freeformed circuits make them very fragile. One's natural instinct to protect one's existence is the basis of life as we know it... How can we enable robots to protect their own existence? I believe this applies to many robots beyond BEAM bots. If a robot is about to be destroyed, damaged, or stepped on and it knows as much, shouldn't it try and save it's self? Fight or flight! The flight bit is fairly simple, just have the bot take off as fast as possible and avoid obstacles... maybe move in a zig zag fashion. But what about the fight bit? 
I have one type of self defense built into a bot I am currently working on and I am considering adding another. But I am interested in other builders' ideas. What would you provide your bot with to enable a method of self defense. 
In total disregard of Asimov's laws,


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Jim_the_Hermit's picture

First the robot would need to be aware enough to know it was under attack.  (Getting bumped, smacked around, etc).  Each smack causes Pain and increments the Anger counter.

As the robot gets Angry, it should display warnings like any other animal (growls, hisses/buzzers, light flashing)

When Angry gets high enough it should then exhibit Rage - solenoid activated Airhorn, Ultrasonic Pain Field generator (anybody remember that?)

After that, Anger decrements providing no more Pain is present.

And, If it has voice recognition, saying the words "calm down" could reduce the Anger counter by a few points.

JerZ's picture

Many animals try to look as big and menacing as possible to deter a threat, like the hood on a cobra, or the hair sticking up on a cats back, or a bear simply standing on it's hind legs. Might be hard for a beam bot to intimidate say, a dog, using this method, but coupled with an audible warning (hiss, growl) I think it could be pulled off without using actual weapons.

OddBot's picture

Yes he could use one of those cheap keyring message recorders to record some hisses and growls.

The real problem is when some clown changes the message to "Come here Fido, Fido want a Scooby Snack?"

OddBot's picture

Forgeting about lasers, armour and spikes for now, a common problem with most robots is stripped gears when the robot falls or crashes into something. 

Most accelerometers can detect freefall (0G) and often have a seperate output when this is detected. If you use an external interrupt to respond to 0G detection and shut down power to all motors then this may help prevent stripping gears.

For example, a walking robot using a lot of servos.

If it falls and the servos are powered then when it hits the ground the motors will fight to maintain position and put more stress on the gears.

If power to the servos was cut as soon as the robot went into free fall then on impact, the servo motor could move freely when the geartrain is forced to move by the impact.

Shutting down the motors when your accelerometer detects an impact may also help but detecting an impact takes more time and may not shut down power quick enough. Also false triggering can be a problem.

Duane Degn's picture

Some of my robots have learned a trick not mentioned yet. Being so darn frustrating to work on, I just put them away in a box. It then in no danger of having burned out circuit or being stepped on.

I have a couple of bots who have used this strategy.

kariloy's picture


' Roboticist Mark Tilden's 1st law of robotics states: "A robot must protect its existence at all costs." '

is the kind of directive that made KARR be so evil :/


But curiously this afternoon out of nowhere (that I can actually pinpoint) I started wondering about self-perservation in robots... but from an AI point of view... and it was only vague wondering. I left it in my TO-THINK-ABOUT-IT-LATER list.

kariloy's picture

...but of course it was also his own downfall :|

bdk6's picture

Do you work for DHS?  Do you have control of a drone? ;-)

Yahmez's picture

No. and No.  lol...  hellfire missiles might be a bit overkill for what I was thinking.

ericteuh's picture

You can push the concept of biomorph by matching what you can do in the nature:

- you can use a passive defense against live and smart enemy; strong shell, diffusing bad selling, showing potential danger, ...

- Leave the menace its a defence, but not only by flying; jumping, digging, diving, running really fast, hiding, ...

- If the only solution is the attack, a lot of tool can be use for; stabbing, cutting, blinding the enemy, ...