"Just because you keep your brain in an exposed, bony protrusion doesn't mean I'm stupid enough to build a robot that way."
In the human body, the entirety of the brain is conveniently located inside the head. In the world of fiction, this often applies to humanoid robots as well. On a certain level, this would seem to be logical; after all, it's been designed to resemble a human being, with all its corresponding external parts in the appropriate places. It's not a big leap to assume the same would be true for the corresponding internal parts.
From an engineering standpoint it isn't strictly necessary to do it that way. It would be safer to put them in a more protected spot, like in the heavily armored chest, some random spot in the abdomen, or even completely decentralized and spread throughout the body.
However, there are some reasons why you might want to put important functions in the head (for much the same reason that so many terrestrial creatures evolved that way.) Many of the parts related to sensory input, such as visual or auditory receptors, would logically be built into the head for the sake of having a higher vantage point of view; once you've placed those there, you need to place the core processors near them to ensure maximum-speed reaction times to visual stimuli. How important this is and how hard that constraint becomes, of course, depends on how quickly you need your robot to be able to react.
Regardless of whether or not it makes any sense, it's very common for everything that makes up the "brain" of an autonomous robot to be located entirely within its head. If its head is removed and placed on another body, its mind will remain intact
. The head may even be able to function completely independent of the body
, like a human Brain in a Jar
. Damage to the rest of the body might be entirely irrelevant to their ability to survive, and the only way to "kill" them is through damage to their head.
, this may become an Invoked Trope for that very reason; Real Life military units are taught to aim for center mass, so putting the vital things in a smaller target/easily salvageable extremity might be intentional.
Sometimes related to Losing Your Head
, Easily Detachable Robot Parts
, Computer Equals Monitor
, Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain
. May also be a Wetware CPU
if Organic Technology
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- Gundam can't always make up its mind on whether or not this applies to its Humongous Mecha. For the vast majority of Mobile Suits, the cockpit is actually located in the torso, but the head usually contains the main sensor. A Mook or Red Shirt who's mecha is decapitated is usually at the very least treated like it's disabled, if not destroyed, but one piloted by a main character or Mauve Shirt is often only slightly inconvenienced.
- The climax of Mobile Suit Gundam simultaneously averted and invoked this trope with the Gundam and the Zeong, respectively. Amuro kept going in the Gundam without its head, while Char ditched the body of the Zeong to continue attacking using its head.
- Zeta Gundam's Rick Dias and the Sazabi from Char's Counterattack both featured cockpits in the head unit. And like the Zeong above, Char piloted both models.
- It's deliberately invoked in G Gundam, whose Mobile Fighters are intentionally designed to shut down when their head is destroyed. This design choice is apparently intended to discourage pilots from aiming for the cockpit of their opponent.
- The 08th MS Team conspicuously averts this in one episode, where Karen's Gundam is beheaded by the first blow of an ambush, but still manages to destroy its attacker. She did need someone else to tell her where to aim, but only because the cockpit displays had been smashed in addition to the head being knocked off. The team then salvages a wrecked GM Ground-type to repair Karen's Gundam, turning it into a "GM-Head".
- In both Gundam SEED and Gundam Seed Destiny, a mobile suit was disabled if it's head was destroyed. This is only relevant because only Kira Yamato aims for the head; he's a pacifist so he only aims to disable, not kill. When a suit shows up that does not have a head that Kira can detach, he simply just shoots out all the other limbs.
- Deliberately invoked in the logic behind a mobile suit variation in Gundam 00. The Neo-Head is an advanced prototype that is compromised solely of arms, legs and a torso, with all cameras, sensors, and processing units distributed throughout the body or within the centre of the torso. The reasons behind it was that in virtually all cases, a mobile suit having its head destroyed meant that it was combat inoperable, regardless of the rest of its operational status.
- Gundam AGE has all of the mobile suits built by the Vagans with this as a standard feature. The only exceptions to this rule being the Vagan Gear.
- Averted by most incarnations of Astroboy, whose CPU is body-centered, contained in a heart-shaped casing inside his chest, making him perfectly capable of functioning with his head knocked off. A little too well, in fact, as Tezuka never did explain how he's able to find his way around without eyes or ears. Maybe one of those wires that's always sticking out of his neck contains a fiberscope?
- In the anime version of Trigun, Gray the Ninelives is a full-body cyborg who's brain is hidden in his stomach.
- Zig-zagged in the Alien franchise. In the original movie, a bang on the head is what causes Ash to malfunction (suggesting that his electronic "brain" is inside his head), but he keeps on going after being decapitated, and his head needs to be wired back up to his body (or lungs) to allow him to talk. In Prometheus, on the other hand, this is played completely straight with David, whose head remains fully functional and capable of speech after being ripped off.
- In Star Wars Episode 2, C3PO's and a battle droid get their heads switched. They both remain quite functional.
- There may be some secondary processing going on in the body though, as C-3PO doesn't seem to be in control of the body's actions and even seems to temporarily take on aspects of a military droid.
- The prequel movies had legions of Battle Droids with brainy heads, although they can sometimes walk around a bit after their heads have been cut off, for "comedic" effect.. MagnaGuards, however, are an example of a droid that can battle on without a head — something not common in the movies. It certainly surprises Obi Wan when it first happens. They have backup processors in their chest.
- You can even see a secondary, chest-mounted photoreceptor (droid eye) in the chest, which explains how they can still see to fight after losing their heads.
- R2-D2's brain (an "Intellex IV computer", according to the Expanded Universe) is in his head, but his torso is so full of gadgets, gizmos, and dwarf actors that there's nowhere else for it to go.
- This is one of the few things the movie of I, Robot had in common with the book. Sonny had a second one, symbolic of a heart, in his chest, but it was implied to augment the one in his head, with no evidence that it could function on its own.
- Kay-Em 14 is used this way after Jason knocks her head off in Jason X.
- The Last Starfighter. When the Beta unit (robot) impersonating Alex takes off its head, the head can continue to talk normally.
- Terminator, since the Terminators all keep their brains/chips in their head.
- Averted with the T-1000 series (and similar) Terminators, though, since, their "head" is no more (or less) important than any other same-mass portion of their "body", being all composed of exactly the same material, and seemingly equally capable of sensory input and distributed processing as any other equivalent mass of the same material. When the "head" is damaged, or simply when convenient, any other mass can be dynamically reconfigured to serve as the head; and even that is not strictly necessary for it to continue functioning (except for the fact that it is programmed to try to appear as human as possible at all times).
- Averted in Robert Mason's Weapon (although not in the horrid film adaptation, Solo): the robot's brain is in its chest, and its head is filled with optics.
- Justified in Real Steel, as these robots are built to mimic human boxers. As such, the spectators expect being punched in the head to have an effect on the robot's ability to fight.
- In Elysium, main character Max rips the head off a bodyguard droid, and said droid shuts down immediately.
- Most of the Jaegers shown in Pacific Rim have their cockpits mounted in this fashion. This proves fatal for the crew of Crimson Typhoon when Otachi rips it off and nonchalantly crushes it during battle, effectively killing the entire mech.
- Averted by Cherno Alpha, whose cockpit is chest-mounted. The giant cylindrical "head" is a giant fuel storage container for the incinerator turbines above its shoulders (and makes a handy decoy for any Kaiju trying to kill the Jaeger via decapitation).
- Isaac Asimov's robot stories. If the position of their positronic brains in their bodies is mentioned, it's usually in their heads. For example, in The Caves of Steel R. Sammy is found with an alpha sprayer pressed against his head: the radiation from it fried his brain.
- Averted in The Stainless Steel Rat, where it's mentioned after diGriz drops a safe on one that police robots have their brains and their voice units in their midsection, surrounded by extra armour. (He knew that; the point of crushing its head was to disable its radio so it couldn't call for backup.)
- In one of Harry Harrison's Bill the Galactic Hero novels, Bill travels to a planet populated by two warring factions of Mechanical Lifeforms. One of them gets shot in the head by a Chinger guard. When the guard leaves, the robot stops playing possum and explains that his CPU is actually in his butt.
- Towards the beginning of a Spider-Man / Iron Man crossover novel (just go with it), Iron Man faces off against an incredibly tough attack robot, and with great effort manages to rip its head off. Then he realizes its processors are actually in its chest, which is much more heavily armored. Oh Crap.
- Briefly mentioned in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel Original Sin. The Doctor decapitates a hostile robot, and then muses how fortunate it was that the robot's designer had put the brain in the head.
- The Wild Cards series has the Ly'bahr, a race of brains in jars who can plug themselves into all manner of different cyborg bodies. When they wear humanoid bodies they carefully avert this trope, burying the fragile meaty brains inside the torso, behind the heaviest armor possible.
- Averted in David Weber's Off Armageddon Reef, where the protagonist is described as having his/her "brain" "located about where a flesh-and-blood human would have kept his liver".
- At least most of the androids in Rick Griffin's Argo seem to have their processors in the head.
- One of the Tom Swift books had a malfunctioning or hacked Robot Buddy killed by being sliced in the stomach area. Tom told the others that the 'brain' was actually inside the body; the head is where the sensory gear is located.
- In one of Stanislaw Lem's stories a first, prototypical Ridiculously Human Robot has its brain put in the head - however, it's lampshaded - "We're the first to do it." The protagonist corrects them - well, Mother Nature did it first.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation:
- In one episode, Data used his body to disrupt an electrical arc, damaging it in the process. Afterward, Riker removed his still functioning head and continued on.
- And then averted in the episode "Time's Arrow," in which Data's head isn't functional until re-united with his body.
- It should be noted that that head was knocked off by an weapon discharge and had been sitting there for centuries, most likely the weapon knocked his systems offline and over time the batteries in his head went dead.
- 790, the disembodied robotic head in Lexx.
- Justified since his original body was organic. It later turns out that he has a fragment of human brain too (which is female).
- Red Dwarf - Kryten even has spare heads which have their own personalities.
- One of the Red Dwarf novels suggests that the circular display on Kryten's abdomen also houses his memory core. If Kryten routinely swaps heads (implied in the TV series to be "once a month") then it makes sense for his body to house a central memory so each head can keep track of what Kryten's current activities have been, even if each head maintains a subtly different personality and its own memory. This may also explain the changes to his personality when he was rebuilt between series two and three - he has the same central memory core but was otherwise extensively reworked.
- Unsurprisingly The Sarah Connor Chronicles featured this. Although it's indicated that at least some models have a backup system somewhere. The headless body of one Terminator was able to keep functioning so it could search for its head. It even put a motorcycle helmet on top to cover things up. The helmet in question also contained a severed head.
- The fact that the body didn't start moving until the head arrived in that time makes it seem like the head was remote controlling the body.
- The concept art of the terminator in question (a T-888) seems to suggest this is the case, as all three of its processing units are located in the head.
- Averted with Adam in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While he clearly has eyes on his head and we don't know for certain where his memory and whatnot are located, at least his power core is located in his chest.
- Played with in Fringe - the shapeshifters have two brains, one in their head and one in their abdomen. However, they will still die if shot in the head.
- Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. When the Funbot is shot in the head it loses control, running around and bumping into things.
- In Warhammer 40,000, Necron units are explained as being vulnerable to headshots because their brains are still in there.
- 'Mech cockpits in BattleTech are in the head 99% of the time. But seeing as most of the torso space is taken up by a large fusion reactor, there's not a lot of room to stick a cockpit in there.
- This trope is played straight on the damage sheets, but averted quite frequently in the artwork and models. Many 'Mechs have torso mounted cockpits - They're just called 'heads' for simplicity.
- A 'Mech can under suitably advanced rules be built with a literal torso-mounted cockpit — that is, one that's actually located inside its mechanical guts and unlike the "cosmetic" option above doesn't even have windows. This averts the trope, puts the pilot behind thicker armor than usual, and makes headshots somewhat less dangerous...but also makes the 'Mech more difficult to pilot and can become a death trap in its own right because this kind of cockpit does not allow the pilot to eject.
- Averted in Cyborg Commando: the cyborg's brain is in the chest, while the head houses various sensors. (And a large amount of empty space, for some reason.)
- Justified in Sly Cooper, as Clockwerk was originally organic, replacing his organs one at a time.
- The Mega Man series (Classic, X, Zero, ZX) loves this trope. If the enemy is immune to damage in the body and doesn't have a weak core, it's best you shoot them in the head in order to destroy them. X3 takes this to an extreme, where the absolutely massive final boss can only be damaged by hitting his extremely tiny head.
- Averted in the 2010 Alien vs. Predator game, which is oddly enough in the same universe as the Alien example. The combat androids can have their heads completely shot off, and continue to not only function, but attack as well. Presumably, they have sensory devices that are also not on their head.
- The best way to take down the humaniform robots and the "robot dogs" in Mass Effect 2 is a headshot. The larger robots require a bit more effort, though.
- In Mass Effect 2, most robots are humanoid. Headshots don't really affect geth, but they do severely damage FENRIR, LOKI and YMIR robots, causing an explosion if the robot was killed with it. If YMIR has his head blown off, he explodes like a Cain's shot.
- At higher difficulties, YMIR mechs can take over a dozen headshots with a sniper rifle to take down. And that's still easier than shooting them anywhere else.
- Most robots in the Ratchet & Clank series play this straight, but the soldier robots on Damosel in the second game can function with only legs.
- Robots in the Fallout series take more damage when they are shot in the head. Except for the military Sentry bot in Fallout 3, who actually takes more damage if shot in the chest. Head shots are still a good idea, though, because all the targeting systems are there and it's armed to the teeth.
- Possibly the Mechawfuls from Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Those things definitely have whatever controls them inside their heads, to the point the head specifically has to be destroyed separately to stop it regenerating the body.
- The Wood Golem in Popful Mail is similar to the above example in that destroying the body will merely cause the head to bounce around until the body regenerates; killing the head is the only way to end the fight. Averted in the case of Nuts Cracker, who is either a robot, an animate puppet or something in that vein: his favorite method of distracting his opponents is cutting off his own head while his body makes a getaway. (The head then taunts the unfortunate bounty hunter and then explodes.)
- In TimeSplitters you can headshot all robots except for Sentrybot, who has no head to speak of.
- KAOS in Donkey Kong Country 3. You have to either jump on its head (first battle) or throw barrels at its head (second battle) to hurt/defeat it. It even changes the design of its head, with its first helmet becoming a flying laser-shooting thing and its final head shooting grenades.
- Phantasy Star Zero both follows this trope and subverts it a bit: Casts play it straight in most every way, but they also have "sub-memory" which is in their bodies and not their heads. It doesn't seem to be enough to back up their personality, however, even though it can hold such high-priority data as an accent.
- In Vanquish, headshots kill the robotic enemies much faster.
- In the Metal Gear series, this usually justified by the fact that the robots are manned and have their cockpits on top. With the unmanned models (Gekko and the Arsenal RAYs), this is played straight. Gekko explicitly have their weak point mounted on the top of their hulls, whereas the RAYs' only real weak point (or at least, the only weak point which actually reduces their HP if attacked) is their face.
- Metal Arms: Glitch in the System'' averts this somewhat with robots that can function with only legs remaining. However, they can't attack.
- Binary Domain features various kinds of robots, both humanoid and otherwise. With the humanoid mechs you can blow off any part of their body to some effect, incuding the head, but this does not render them unable to function, it simply blinds them and they start shooting their allies instead. The non-humanoid ones avert this trope to a varying degree. Some have no heads to speak of while others do have heads that serve as "weak" spots, but even those weak spots are heavily armored as opposed to the rest of their body which is simply invulnerable.
- Clearly, since Gray Mann based his squad of robot invaders on the mercenaries his idiot brothers hired for their endless feud, he also thoughtfully made the heads of said robots be vital processing centers so any opposing Sniper has a convenient target to hit. Amusingly, the robot sniper don't ever shoot humans in the head, though they make up for this by coming in squads.
- Strangely zig-zagged in Bioshock Infinite with the Motorized Patriot, one of the few actually robotic enemies in the game. Shooting the Motorized Patriot in the head still does extra damage, a lot more than shooting it in the chest. But even if you destroy the head it continues, implying it has other sensors elsewhere, but none that you can see.
- In Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, this is the case with the giant boss Earthwake. Indeed, its head seemingly contains everything important for the thing's function, since it's what initially flies into the air and summons the rest of the body from the background. And everything's presumably held together by some sort of magnetism, Raymanian Limbs style. Which is why you end up defeating it by driving it into the water and repeatedly pummelling said head with a hammer.
- Lavos from Chrono Trigger isn't a robot, but does subvert this trope in a way to trick the player. Lavos' final form consists of a large humanoid figure and two pods floating beside it. While you'd think the humanoid figure is the real Lavos (especially since the left pod heals it regularly,) the real Lavos is actually the right pod, which can't be defeated until the left pod and humanoid figure are defeated.
- Borderlands 2 is pretty clever about this, as their robots don't usually have recognizable heads—they're basically all torso, legs, and weapons. They have a slight protrusion from the middle of their chests that appears to be where it keeps the CPU, but this portion is exceedingly well armored and takes the most damage to destroy. Only the EXP Loader has a recognizable 'head,' which pops up on the torso when it's right next to a target, but that isn't the CPU—it's an explosive reactor core, which naturally blows up like no one's business.
- Averted in Schlock Mercenary, where it's even commented on how it would be foolish. Unless you count Ennesby who's essentially a head on a stick (Anti Gravity generator).
- Also, one organic alien survives a headshot, as his "head" is just a big eye and his brain is actually in his pelvis. (he is promptly advised to play possum, lest the enemy sniper figure it out and go for another shot.)
- Darths & Droids mentioned this recently with reference to how strange it is that C3PO still works when his head is grafted onto a battledroid.
- Briefly discussed in MS Paint Masterpieces, with Mega Man wondering why robot designers always put the CPUs in the robot brains, concluding that if it were up to him, he'd put the CPU in the robot's butt.
- In a subversion, it turns out Crash Man's CPU isn't in his head. Oh no, that's reserved for more explosives.
- In Gunnerkrigg Court this does the trick. At least, if you slam poor tin can hard enough to rip out whatever was connected to its head by cables.
- In Ctrl+Alt+Del a robot was saved due to his designer placing all vital parts in the head and then removing it.
- Said robot was an X-Box system; the only vital components in the head were the hard drives containing saved games (and personality).
- Freefall: Averted with Helix (and possibly other robots). As seen in this strip and the next few following it, removing his head has no effect on his ability to thinknote and communicate.
- Taken to its logical extreme with Benny, who has a humanoid body and an airplane body, both controlled by a brain in a briefcase-shaped portable container.
- In Commander Kitty, an android's head can function independently if hooked up to a power source, as demonstrated with Nin Wah's android clone here. Taken a bit more literally later, where Fortiscue seems to be using Zenith's head as a backup computer in an effort to get the generators back online.
- Played straight and then lampshaded in Red vs. Blue. Lopez the robot has his body blown up and spends season 4 onwards as a disembodied head. Later in season 4 Sarge wants to retrieve a secret message that was hidden in his databanks, and Grif asks if the data would actually be in his head and Sarge cites the logic behind this trope.
- Church is kicked out of his robot body if he's shot in the head, which would sorta count as a kill, except he can hop back in just as quickly.
- The Mega Man MUSH, unlike the games it's based on, generally averts this trope (except for old bots and, well, depends on the creator), as, for robots in general, their neural nets are, as a rule of thumb, in the chest. The head is just one big sensor node.
- The mecha in Ilivais X vary in regards to this. The Ilivais units play it more or less straight- the head holds both the sensory web and the cockpit, slightly justified as the pilots are meant to project their soul into the unit and operate it as they would their own bodies. The Avespias are more like the Gundam examples in this regard- cockpit in the chest, processors in the head. However, the Espadas drastically subvert this- the cockpit is in the shoulder, as they do not have a head at all.
- Bender in Futurama is shown more than once to be able to completely remove his head and continue to function in any way his head normally would. His body is still able to move around without the head, it just can't see. He can also take considerable damage to his head without losing mental capacity.
- Usually averted in Transformers. It varies by continuity whether or not the head even has anything related to thought or memory in it, but they almost always have their most important part, their Sparks, near where the heart would be on a human or the dead center of their chest. Still, a surefire way to get a Transformer to stay down is to tear the head off. Megatron exploited this in Beast Wars, nearly killing the original Optimus Prime on the Ark. Only removing his spark for safekeeping allowed Optimus to be repaired effectively.
- Played straight in Transformers Animated however, where the heads are shown to contain the transformer's mind. Something that allows Megatron to survive and that the Headmaster exploits. This despite the fact that, as noted above, the Transformers still clearly keep their sparks in their chests.
- Starscream plays this straight after Megatron extinguished his Spark. A fragment of the Allspark lodged itself in Starscream's head and acted as a substitute for his absent Spark. Getting it pulled out in the finale killed him off for real.
- Waspinator in Beast Wars played this straight, since his Spark chamber was located in his head for some reason. This is why he was able to survive being blown up so many times throughout the series since his head always remained intact.
- Played with in the case of Ravage; the only recognisable part of him left from his original G1 form was his head. Surprisingly, after kissing his own nuke, all that was left of him was his head. It's either averted or played straight depending on which you consider canon; apparently he was repaired in the comic books but was considered dead in the animated series.
- Averted with the robotic Richard Simmons in The Simpsons.
- XR in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is only vaguely even humanoid, but still has this. Actually kind of justified: XR is specifically designed to be easy to reassemble if damaged, and his head is the part of him with the mouth to tell people he needs reassembling. His head also a fairly sturdy-looking cylinder with facial features that seems difficult to damage anyway.
- Subverted in many android robot projects, as well as medical training dummies that try to mimic human expressions and facial gestures: the actuators and hardware for opening, closing and moving the eyes and mouth take a lot of space, to the effect that some modern training dummies even had to switch gender to accommodate the extra hardware necessary to control them all (it would have looked weird on a female body). There would simply be no space for a motherboard or CPU in the head. Much better to move it into the stomach cavity, where relatively few things need to happen in order to make the robot believably humanoid.