Thursday, March 13, 2008

Neologism du Jour

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My sincerest apologies for missing yesterday's post.  I was in D.C. doing some light consulting work for the Battelle Corporation and, well, I missed my deadline.

In the course of the event, though, fellow SF writer John Hemry and I came up with a nonce-word.  We were talking about robots and discovered that it caused a great deal of confusion to use the same word for autonomous devices and those that were operated by wire or telepresence by a human being.  The jargon for having somebody operating one of those things turns out to be "man-in-loop," so we invented the word milbot for a non-autonomous robot.

Surely, however, somebody's already come up with a term for such devices.  Does anybody here know of such a word?

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12 comments:

SpeakerToManagers said...

The term I've been using for remotely-operated, as opposed to autonomous "robot", is "telepuppet". There's a neat bit of irony, I think, in having machines designed for war remind me of Kermit and Rowlf.

Bill said...

I thought the term was "waldo", coined by Heinlein. I know I've seen that term in plenty of space opera.

SpeakerToManagers said...

Waldo is a term that's been used since the early 50's to mean the remote-controlled arms that are used in hazardous material handling, like in high-radiation areas. I've heard the term "body waldo" to mean something that was mobile and controlled by both arms and legs.

Michael Swanwick said...

So the only alternatives we're able to come up are four syllables long?

I don't think "milbot" is going to catch on. But there's definitely a need for a word there. It's a good opportunity for somebody.

Richard Mason said...

An unmanned aircraft will sometimes be referred to as an RPV (Remotely Piloted Vehicle; OED cites usages from 1970), implying there is a man in the loop (while the now-more-popular TLA UAV leaves the degree of human oversight ambiguous).

Underwater they call them ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles).

Of course either RPV or ROV could be adapted to ground vehicles.

Then there's "telerobot." OED cites uses from 1985.

I think people might assume "milbot" meant military robot.

Michael Swanwick said...

I agree. Milbot won't do. I'd argue that acronyms are too unwieldy to catch on, but the widespread use of IED (and, for that matter, IUD) proves me wrong there.

Interesting that the new term -- I may have used it myself -- also has four syllables. As these things become more common, they're going to need something shorter. Even robot is being increasingly shortened to bot nowadays.

Richard Mason said...

I thought the noun "remote" might work: "She walked the remote up the stairwell and set it to watch the third-floor landing." Even though we now use "remote" as short-hand for controller rather than controllee.

"Mecha" are robot-like things piloted by people.

Insofar as remote-controlled robots actually exist, they have tradenames, e.g. iRobot's "PackBot." It might happen that one of those catches on and becomes applied generically.

Edward Barlowe said...

"Telechiric" is the word you are looking for - although it is a bit long. An abbreviated form of "telechir" might work.

"Telop" would be an obvious abbreviation for tele-operated.

Edward Barlowe said...

"Telechiric" is the word you are looking for - although it is a bit long. An abbreviated form of "telechir" might work.

"Telop" would be an obvious abbreviation for tele-operated.

Roland said...

I've always been a strong supporter of the more... shall we say "poetic" way of calling such things. I mean, why should it be a nickname or a combination of words when it can be something entirely different that simply conveys the idea. Like "Glove" (or "Gauntlet" in more military situations). I realise this is as far from original as humanly possible, but it's just an example.

It would be so much easier if we were talking giant robots with pilots inside though. Japanese are a neverending fount of inspiration when it comes to giant robots...

Michael Swanwick said...

Telechiric is a lovely word but I can't see it catching on, not even if it were reduced to "telch." Roland's approach is the most likely to prevail, should somebody come along with the right metaphor.

One problem is that military nomenclature tends to be tortured. The Battelle people kept using the word "warfighter." Somebody finally asked why and we were told it was to include sailors, marines, and "those people in the Air Force, they think of themselves as military, too, I suspect."

I reported this to Marianne and she said, "Why don't they simply call them warriors?"

Edward Barlowe said...

Chiro is Greek for "hand" which would cover the manipulative-rather-than-autonomous part of your definition.

And it looks pretty similar to gizmo in print. It is, however, pronounced "KY-roh".

Think chiropractor (hand+practitioner)or the mammalian order of bats: chiroptera (hand+wing).