May the 4th!

C3PO and R2D2. Star Wars - A New Hope. Directed by George Lucas, 1977.

It is May the 4th – Star Wars Day. This holiday, celebrated by the fans of the movie, was created on this date for the pun on the catchphrase: May the Force (be with You)!

We have also joined the fandom of Star Wars. Turning forty years old this year, the most charming space fairy tale in cinema history captured the imagination of engineers as well. And created the need for household robots, for instance.

Is there any-one who cannot remember Star Wars robots tottering and stumbling about Owen Lars’ farm on Planet Tatooine? C3PO played by Anthony Daniels and the little R2D2, his true friend, are among the main characters of the film, which has developed into seven sequels by now. (And yes! an actor, flesh and blood, was sitting inside the barrel-shaped body of the little R2 unit, Kenny Baker by name.)

This film introduced and spread the expression droid, meaning robots capable of autonomous work. Droids have humanoid features, can converse with humans and are loveable, but they are treated second-rate. For instance, remember when the bar tender in Mos Eisley Cantina snarls at the newcomers:

“We don’t serve their kind here... Your droids.”

And is there any-one who fails to remember the scene where General Kenobi, played by Sir Alec Guinness – the force was with him! – told Stormtroopers that, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

BUT we are! We are looking for these droids.

Household robots entered our life more than twenty years ago (the first one, the Electrolux Trilobite was introduced to the public in a BBC programme in 1996), and they have become smarter and an increasingly important part of our lives since then.

The John von Neumann Computer Society (NJSZT) takes an active role in familiarizing the public with robotics so that as many people as possible would benefit from this technological development, but we also draw the attention to its „risks and side effects”.

In doing so, NJSZT supports robotics competitions and programmes all over Hungary. NJSZT’s Robotics Department is an important community of professionals. NJSZT’s annually held Digital Equality (DE! /) conferences have focussed on various aspects of robotics and artificial intelligence for the past two years.

You can view the presentations delivered at these conferences here:

And check out and every now and then, because there is some surprise coming up this year for those who like droids.

And until then, May the Force be with You!