Created By: ginsengaddict2 on December 9, 2011 Last Edited By: ginsengaddict2 on December 18, 2011

Eye of HAL

A convex glass cover over a glowing light is always an indication that an A.I. will go rogue

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A ubiquitous Shout-Out to 2001: A Space Odyssey used so often and in the same context to qualify as a visual trope. Anytime there is an A.I. in a work, and that A.I. has a physical body of some kind, and that physical body has an "eye" that can be described as a glowing colored light (usually red) behind a convex glass screen, then that A.I. will invariably go rogue and try to do stuff people don't want it to do.

What's unique about this trope is that the A.I. always starts out fine, and then goes rogue over the course of the story, rather than starting out rogue to begin with... just like HAL.


  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: Trope Maker, Trope Codifier and Ur-Example - HAL 9000
  • Eagle Eye: Aria's core processor resembles HAL, only her eye fades between red and purple.
  • Portal: GLADoS's eyepiece has HAL-like traits. It's yellow though.
  • WALL•E: Otto is basically HAL on a ship's helm wheel.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The short-lived TV show had an episode with a HAL-like computer security system that Wayne installed. She tried to kill him. He probably should have watched 2001 first, so he didn't design her to look exactly like HAL.
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • December 9, 2011
    I'm not sure yet, but how is this a full trope? Because right now, this is just a very narrow shoutout.
  • December 10, 2011
    Metroid Fusion plays with this; It is revealed that Adam has hidden objectives to help the federation, which does not bode well with Samus. However, he rebels...and joins Samus.
  • December 10, 2011
    Small correction on the Wall E example: the auto pilot is called A.U.T.O., not Otto. All the robots' names are acronyms.
  • December 10, 2011
    The Cylons on the original Battlestar Galactica had moving glowing eyes and of course were already working against humans.
  • December 10, 2011
    Cylons don't really count since they aren't technically a recreation of HAL. The side-to-side moving Cylon eye light is a completely different visual motif.
  • December 10, 2011
    According to the laconic, the "glowing red light" is a visual shorthand for AI Is A Crapshoot.
  • December 10, 2011
    They're not AI's and came before 2001, but the eyestalk/eyepiece of Daleks.
  • December 10, 2011
    So this is a Stock Shout Out?

    • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Coupe d'Etat" directly references 2001, with a close-up on one of KARR's headlights and dialogue ripped straight from the Signature Scene.
  • December 17, 2011
    Robot Evil Eye?
  • December 17, 2011
  • December 17, 2011
    Video Games

    • Knights Of The Old Republic II: You will encounter a large, round droid named G0-T0, or Goto. It has a big, red eye that some compare to HAL. Oh, and it might surprise you (or it might not) that this droid was programmed to save the Republic, and it "broke" and went rogue in trying to follow its programming!
  • December 18, 2011
    I'm sure we already have this, I just don't remember the name at the moment.