Whenever the camera assumes the POV of a robot, we see how the robot sees the world, which is always as a kind of computer readout. It's usually slightly pixellated, often tinted, frequently has a grid laid over everything, and very often prone to Our Graphics Will Suck In The Future
. They can zoom in and out, and are capable of picture-in-picture (e.g., when they see a person they might bring up a file photo of them). Most importantly, words, numbers, enemy strengths and weaknesses
and various other data will flash across the screen, identifying people and items, reminding the robot of its objectives, contemplating possible courses of action, or sometimes just flashing little scrawls of code
that mean nothing to the viewer.
This isn't just limited to robots: in Cyber Punk
settings, a human character with implanted cyber-eyes
may have a vision field like this, complete with sensor read-outs, crosslines superimposed over enemies he's aiming at, or picture-in-picture for an incoming videophone message. Alternatively, a character connected to a robot drone via a cyber datalink will be able to see through the sensors of the drone.
The readout almost always contains jokes.
In comedy they will be blatant jokes such as the robot identifying a person with the least flattering terms possible, while in serious efforts the jokes are usually hidden little shout outs
. Another common joke is to show living, organic characters perceiving the world around them this way, suggesting that whatever activity they are performing, they are doing so in a robotic, slavish manner.
This trope is more of a Translation Convention
, to make the robot's state of mind clear to the audience, than it is a realistic depiction of how robots see In-Universe
. It would, for the most part, be pointless to display all this information—ostensibly for the benefit of the robot itself—on the robot's own vision. After all, the information comes from the robot's own memory banks. Are we to understand that when the robot wants the lowdown on what it's looking at, it sends the data to its screen, converts it to a readout, and reads it off of there? Why can't it just remember stuff directly like a normal person? note
On the other hand, this objection applies less to humans with cyber-eyes: if they don't have direct neural link between their brain and a computer, then a visual display of data is a plausible in-universe means to convey the information.
Probably started with Westworld
(Yul Brynner's Gunslinger robot) and The Terminator
It often accompanies a character using Robo Speak
. Compare with Heads-Up Display
and Augmented Reality
Compare the related tropes Impending Doom P.O.V.
, Murderer P.O.V.
, Shaky P.O.V. Cam
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Anime & Manga
Films — Animation
- 9 has a few shots through the point of view of the Fabrication Machine, and its creation known as the Seamstress.
- Emperor Zurg has one in Toy Story 2, only it's just a viewfinder on the back of his head.
- In Wall E, several different characters' RoboCams are shown. WALL•E's POV even serves as the main menu on the DVD.
Films — Live-Action
- Westworld: Yul Brynner's gunslinger robot.
- In The Terminator, in addition to sporting 6502 assembly source code from an Apple II magazine, the RoboCam also features some funny robotic quirks. In one scene, a flophouse janitor comments that the room smells like a dead cat, and the T-800 visualizes several possible responses including "Go away", "Please come back later" and his final choice, "Fuck you, asshole."
- In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, we once again get to see the view from the T-800's eyes, but we never see the view from the liquid metal T-1000's.
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has the T-800's original RoboCam (though to show the T-850 is a bit more advanced, there are Mac OS commands along with Apple II ones), but gave the T-X a high-tech blue vision.
- RoboCop (1987)
- Amusingly, RoboCop's embedded OS apparently runs on MS-DOS, as his startup sequence loads from BIOS and then calls COMMAND.COM.
- And RoboCain in the second movie seems to run Mac OS.
- In Short Circuit 2, we get a glimpse of Johnny's perspective. He sees everything the same way that a human would... except he can see invisible tire tracks? This happens only once.
- Used in the Transformers film series, for the brief segment near the beginning when we see Blackout (a Decepticon) looking at Epps (a human military officer).
- Iron Man 2 gives us a few POV-shots from the Hammer Droids, including the moment in which a droid nearly kills a child wearing an Iron Man mask. Also, while they're technically not robots, the views from inside the various suits of armor in the series invoke this trope.
- In The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Cameron's vision is shown in full-color, but is an otherwise normal RoboCam. In the episode "Allison from Palmdale", it is actually implied that the RoboCam may be an important part of "reminding" the Terminator that they are a machine, as right before Cameron's chip goes glitchy and she "becomes" Allison, the HUD disappears and she sees everything normally.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The POV of the Aprilbot and the Buffybot used this device, plus added drop-down menus to show various decision paths the bot was exploring — menus which included the infamous "adult" options.
- Red Dwarf:
- "Last Day". Hudzen-10, a newer model of android, attempts to replace Kryten by force, but can't harm humans. As he studies the crew, his RoboCam flashes messages explaining his way around this difficulty: Cat is Felix Sapiens, therefore not human; Rimmer is a former-human, therefore not human; Lister is "barely human", so "Oh, what the hell".
- Also occurs when Kryten is injured in "Terrorform"; his vision ranges from reporting "Mauve Alert" to playing relaxing music to calm himself down.
- An old-style Cylon's POV in Battlestar Galactica: Razor has a bright stripe that corresponds to the Cylon's oscillating red eye and a targeting display. We see the display glitch out when Adama hits it with an iron bar.
- Spaced gives a Shout Out to RoboCop (1987), a big, long, beat-for-beat one, that replicated the complete Introduction of RoboCop sequence... for a Battle Bot.
- Used in Babylon 5 in some scenes shown from the perspective of a "Maintbot" outside the station. The use of the various extra stuff in the readout was justified, however; the robots were not AIs, and the camera readout was mostly intended for use by people inside the station, who might find such info useful.
- Usually in Bibleman when they use a POV shot from the heroes' perspective.
- K9, the series, features many scenes from K9's POV, with various stat blocks popping up.
- In the Eureka episode "Bad To The Drone", Martha the combat drone has vision like this. Most significantly, it provides an opportunity for some Foreshadowing disguised as a one-off joke: every time Martha looks at someone, their age (among other facts about them) is displayed. Eva Thorne's age is listed as "classified".
- Abed sees everything through this in Community episode "Aerodynamics of Gender" when he gets turned into a "mean girl", insulting people. His POV has a computer readout instantly detailing his target's flaws. He also has a "current synopsis" for the episode so far (including Troy and Jeff's storyline, which he has no non-meta way of knowing) and memos to record Cougar Town, book Starburns for 'Troy and Abed in the Morning' (which happens in The Tag) and to remember that Troy's birthday is in 14 days.
- Well lacking a read out and not being pixelated Technically Every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 since it's seen though the roboeye of Camebot
- In the 'Captain Subtext' episode of Coupling when the characters switch to his POV the view changes with a green tint and everything.
- Pretty much any game that provides an in-story justification for a HUD has the explanation that character is looking through a visor or something similar.
- In a cutscene near the beginning of Super Mario Sunshine, FLUDD identifies Mario in a scene similar to this. As a bonus, brief video clips of boss battles from previous Mario games are shown in the corner of the screen. The screen appears again at the end of the game, when it appears that FLUDD has been destroyed. The part of the screen that showed Mario game scenes now says "Game Over".
- Metal Gear Solid
- A cutscene in Metal Gear Solid 2 shows a brief shot from the perspective of a Metal Gear Ray.
- Metal Gear Solid 4 has a scene where unmanned Gekkos are hunting for Snake; their viewpoint is shown for a few seconds as they use a thermal scan on a cardboard box that they suspect he is hidden under.
- An unusual videogame example comes up in Quake IV: During his partial stroggification, the protagonist gets a neural implant lodged into his brain. Immediately after the implantation, a hex grid and some program code appear superimposed over his field of vision. Afterwards, he sees both the previously uncomprehendable Strogg computer displays and the English text on human computer displays as well as his own HUD as mangled but readable "Strogglish". He also hears the previously unintelligible Strogg PA voice as English.
- A direct Shout Out to RoboCop with this — Ziggy's vision is depicted with the exact same scan lines and colour distortions as Murphy's.
- KOS-MOS does this a few times too. Apparently she even records what's happened behind her.
- System Shock's interface is explained as the cybernetic implant's display. In the second game, cinematics show the character with a sort of built-in goggles.
- In Chibi Robo, You can use Chibi-Vision to see through Chibi-Robo's eyes, zoom in, and aim your Chibi-Blaster.
- The bowling minigame in Tekken Tag Tournament is made a lot easier with Bryan due to his HUD
- Red vs. Blue. In season two we see Lopez's point of view. It has SAP in the corner of the screen (a spanish subtitle joke), as well as a number of objectives that involved killing/humilating the blues and Griff (since he was built by Sarge).
- In Code Lyoko, the viewpoints of XANA's monsters on Lyoko — as well as XANA's robots, Polymorphic Clones and Spectres (including possessed people) in the real world — are often shown in RoboCam, with of course XANA's eye logo figuring preeminently.
- Spoofed in Futurama, in the episode "Mother's Day". The crew go to a robot museum, and one of the displays is called "See Through the Eyes of a Bending Unit". Leela takes up one of the eyepieces, and sees through a green-tinted world who is in the area and if they would be worth stealing from. (Bender, a bending unit, remarks that looking through the goggles gives him a headache.)
- Junkman of the The Incredible Crash Dummies has one of these complete with animal identification and a to do list.
- The Simpsons: when Homer is given the task of finding a suitor for Selma he sees the candidates through a RoboCam that displays their Pros and Cons.
- Transformers: Beast Wars made use of this trope, as well as having fun with it at times. Most notably, one of Rattrap's POV shots had a rotating cheese wedge in the lower corner, apropos of nothing. And at least in Transformers it gets somewhat of an excuse, since they're explicit about the robots having a humanlike mind independent of their "data storage". Even requiring an activation code spoken aloud to transform (sometimes). Also, the writing in all such scenes is actually a substitution cypher called "Cybertronix" that is filled with Easter Egg and Shout Out text.
- Overlaying primitive, brightly-coloured graphics (because they generally contrast well over complex "real" views, and are easy to add) is fairly common for tasks such as computer vision (drawing rectangles around identified objects) as a debugging aid. Some video games, such as Unreal Tournament, even leave these into release builds to help third-party map authors see how the computer players perceive and plan within their map. One could make a Fan Wank argument that the same would go for all manner of killer robots that were originally developed by meatbags, and we're seeing debug output.
- The military robots now have exactly this. They still require a human to pull the trigger for safety reasons, but they do the aiming on their own.