The android Data, portrayed by Brent Spiner, from the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation
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Android

An android is an artificially created robot, an automaton, that resembles a human being usually both in appearance and behavior. The word derives from the Greek andr-, " meaning "man, male", and the suffix -eides, used to mean "of the species; alike" (from eidos "species"). The word droid, a robot in the Star Wars universe, is derived from this meaning. more...

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In the semantic sense the word "android" is a misnomer. The intended meaning is "an artificial human being like being", while the literal translation is "an artificial male being". The word andros has definite meaning of "male human being" in Greek, while the word man can mean either "male human being" or "human being in general". The gender-neutral word for human being in Greek is anthropos, and the correct word for an artificial human being-like automaton would be anthropoid.

Usage and distinctions

Unlike the terms robot (a "mechanical" being) and cyborg (a being that is partly organic and partly mechanical), the word android has been used in literature and other media to denote several different kinds of artificially constructed beings:

  • a robot that closely resembles a human
  • a cyborg that closely resembles a human
  • an artificially created, yet primarily organic, being that closely resembles a human

Although human morphology is not necessarily the ideal form for working robots, the fascination in developing robots that can mimic it can be found historically in the assimilation of two concepts: simulacra (devices that exhibit likeness) and automata (devices that have independence).

The term android was first used by the French author Mathias Villiers de l'Isle-Adam (1838-1889) in his work Tomorrow's Eve, featuring an artificial human-like robot named Hadaly. As said by the officer in the story, "In this age of Realien advancement, who knows what goes on in the mind of those responsible for these mechanical dolls."

Although Karel Čapek's robots in R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) (1921)—the play that introduced the word "robot" to the world—were organic artificial humans, the word robot has come to primarily refer to mechanical humans, animals, and other beings. The term android can mean either one of these, while a cyborg ("cybernetic organism" or "bionic man") would be a creature that is a combination of organic and mechanical parts.

Ambiguity

Historically, science fiction authors have used "android" in a greater diversity of ways than the terms "robot" and "cyborg". In some fiction works, the primary difference between a robot and android is only skin-deep, with androids being made to look almost exactly like humans on the outside, but with internal mechanics exactly the same as that of robots. In other stories, authors have defined android to indicate a wholly organic, yet artificial, creation. Other definitions of android fall somewhere in between.

The character Data, from the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, is described as an android. Data became intoxicated in an early episode ("The Naked Now") and is later referred to having "bioplast sheeting" for skin ("The Most Toys"), perhaps suggesting that he was initially intended by the writers to be at least partially organic. Otherwise, Data was shown to be mechanical throughout and this often became a central plot theme.

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FireStarter
From Computer Gaming World, 6/1/04 by Di Luo

FireStarter proves a clich: You really do get what you pay for. This FPS import from the Ukraine is better than most budgetware, but it is otherwise underwhelming in a market glutted with flashier and meatier titles.

FireStarter supposedly has a story, but since there’s no dialogue, cut-scenes, or real missions, it doesn’t really matter. You simply pick one of the game’s six characters (soldier, android, chick assassin, etc.), make your way through 16 levels, kill everything, and snatch “artifacts” that occasionally pop up. If you fail, you restart. Combat is repetitive and clunky, broken up by annoying pauses that show you new monsters and artifacts.

The special abilities you pick each time you defeat a level do add some depth: They make you stronger, allow you to carry more weapons, or grant you some other minor ability. The game’s customizable characters would have been fun for multiplayer, but since only LAN play is supported, it’s doubtful you’ll ever experience multiplayer.

The sound is bland, the graphics are a bit better than those in Quake II, and the gameplay is reminiscent of a high-school project from a couple of precocious students. Buy it as a cheap gift for an annoying cousin. Otherwise, save your money for a real game.

Verdict 2/5 Stars

It’s better than Deer Hunter.

Copyright © 2004 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Computer Gaming World.

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