'Alien: Covenant' Predicts Robots Will Be the Third Wheel

20th Century Fox

The new prologue for Alien: Covenant hints at the final point in the arc of robot evolution. It’s a sexy helper-bot with chiseled, Teutonic features.

As part of the short clip released on Wednesday, actor Michael Fassbender plays an android named Walter, the sole humanoid robot on a ship full of couples, getting ready to colonize a planet in the Alien universe. We see Fassbender perform some medical test, recommend vitamins, and save one of the characters from choking.

“Cryosleep will commence in 153 minutes,” it tells a character preparing for the long nap. “Allow one hour before taking the purgative, and please be sure to consume the requisite liquid, and vitamin pack.”

Its voice is human, but his vocabulary and annunciation is pure A.I.

The fact that Walter is the only single character in a room full of happy couples is noticeable; less so is that it’s a robot. And having android third-wheels just chilling and helping out is actually a likely future.

From performing medical checks, to intervening when you’re choking, helper robots are coming. And although heading into space with a colonization crew (maybe in a quick jaunt to the habitable planets around TRAPPIST-1) is a definite possibility, we’re going to end up with an industry of humanoid helper robots in the more immediate future. And in real life, these robots will probably help take care of elderly people alongside performing important duties like making awkward eye contact while telling you how to take your medication to prepare you for cryosleep.

Fassbender android, all alone on a ship of couples. 

20th Century Fox

Recently, Rodney Brooks, robotics pioneer and inventor of the Roomba, predicted that the near-future of robotics is in creating elder-care robots.

Not only would something like a Frank robot from the 2012 movie (see below) be extremely useful in caring for elderly people, Brooks says there is significant money in actually building a real-life android that could go cat-burgling with your grandfather.

And something like Frank is a near-future idea of what an elder-care robot could be. We already have helper robots that can give hugs and is being modified to do medical analysis. Others are being designed to help people lift heavy objects. In Japan, the friendly Robear, is being designed to work as a nurse robot that could seriously help in elder care.

In the slightly more distant future, we have the Fassbender android. There are already humanoid robots getting ready to join people in space, and FEDOR, the humanoid Russian space robot will go on missions with cosmonauts starting in 2021.

It is going to take getting past the uncanny valley of something like Kodomoriod, the anthropomorphic Japanese newscaster robot, before robots can be the awkwardly sexy third wheel in a space colony — but Fassbender is coming.

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