The Talking Lightbulb is some visual effect, often a simple blinking light, that flickers away whenever a robot or computer speaks, for no reason other than to look cool. Maybe it's supposed to help the audience focus on a character that doesn't move its face when it speaks, generally because it has no face. It is often used in combination with Robo Speak
. Can be justified
as a user-friendly feature, since for people on both
sides of the Fourth Wall
, it's the simplest way to make obvious at a glance which one is speaking when several robots, computerized appliances, and talking alarm clocks are around.
Compare Head Bob
, Action Figure Speech
Anime and Manga
- In Lyrical Nanoha, if a Device has a prominent Power Crystal, it will blink and flicker in this manner when it speaks conversationally.
- In Fireball, Gedächtnis's eye lights up as he speaks.
- Added to the robots in DBZA Movie: Cooler 2: The Return of Cooler's Revenge: The Reckoning, for comedic effect.
- One Trope Codifier is Robbie the Robot, who debuted in Forbidden Planet. Robbie looked like a thickset suit of armor that had had a jukebox dropped on it and, like a jukebox, had an impressive light-show built in. This included a roughly mouth-placed panel of lights that flashed in rhythm with his speech, which had a moderate Robo Speak accent.
- R2-D2 in Star Wars has a light next to his speaker that changes from blue to red as he talks.
- All SAINT robots in Short Circuit are equipped with a mouth cover. Nr. 5 loses his one early in the film, revealing a series of LEDs that light up when he talks.
- Johnny 5 refers to them as "lip lights".
- From the German children's storybooks Birne kann alles (Lightbulb can do anything), the titular Birne is quite literally, a walking, talking lightbulb.
- The Robot from Lost in Space looked a great deal like Robbie, including the glass-dome-lightshow head and the Talking Lightbulb "mouth."
- At Paul Allen's Science Fiction Museum there's a display with Robbie and The Robot next to each other. They converse with each other on various subjects.
- The ship's computer in Star Trek: The Original Series displayed an oscilloscope display when it spoke (in heavy Robo Speak). Also, in the famous episode "The Menagerie", the infirm Captain Pike, in a futuristic wheelchair, can only communicate with brainwaves translated by the wheelchair - one beep for 'yes', two for 'no'.
- In the episode "The Changeling", the intelligent space probe Nomad has green flashing lights all the time, as well as yellow and red lights when it speaks.
- KITT, the robotic car from Knight Rider, had and has a Talking Lightbulb speech display in both series. The original used a series of LED lights similar to a graphic equalizer, while the new one was an extra-cool plasma display.
- Daleks from Doctor Who (who are actually aliens in Powered Armor) also speak this way.
- Also the classic series incarnation of the Silurians.
- And the altered Ood, as well.
- Most robotic Doctor Who characters have this. The new Cybermen have upgraded to Talking Lightbulb status, and some versions of K9 too.
- The talking toaster in early series of Red Dwarf.
- London's identical, sarcastic, talking stand mirrors from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Suite Life on Deck was surrounded by Talking Lightbulbs, in the manner of a typical frame-lit vanity mirror.
- Many of the robots in Futurama have this effect. Bender is the one exception, he has a panel with a wave similar in appearance to an oscilloscope that is lipsynched to his speech. Futurama also parodied "The Menagerie"'s wheelchair when the characters had to testify in court in "Where No Fan Has Gone Before".
- Karen, Plankton's computer wife in SpongeBob SquarePants, uses the oscilloscope version.
- The Thing, in Cosgrove Hall's adaptation of Truckers, zig-zags between this and more complicated light patterns and projections, since a larger model is used for close ups.
- Bit from TRON can fit this. As a bit, he is only capable of two responses—"yes" or "no"—and each response is accompanied by a change of shape: a yellow octahedron for "yes", or a red spiked 3D shape for "no".
- Some Transformers without normal mouths are like this. The most notable is Wheeljack.
- Also (in at least some series), when a Transformer speaks in vehicle mode, whatever applicable form of headlight will flash in rhythm with the words.
- The Visor Robot from Homestar Runner. An Easter Egg at the end of one cartoon starring it even revealed its voice box to be a red lightbulb after it exploded.
- Whatever Happened to... Robot Jones? had the titular character's eyes flash when he spoke.
- Ice Man from Mega Man had a white strip on his face, that glowed ice-blue when he spoke.
- Junkman, and his bumbling lackeys from The Incredible Crash Dummies had mouth-plates that flashed whenever they talked.
- In the Bill Nye the Science Guy computer game Stop the Rock!, when the computer you had to convince humans were worth saving from a giant asteroid spoke, the screen it was using flashed large pixels expanding from the center, with color and number corresponding to volume.
- In Mass Effect Tali'Zorah's helmet (and all Quarian suits for that matter) has a light that flashes in sync with her speech. Justified in that Quarian helmets obscure the face and as they wear them near-constantly it would make group conversations highly confusing.
- The Volus also have flashing lights, for exactly the same reason.
- The Geth, which were designed by the Quarians, also have this. Or at least, Legion does.
- As of Mass Effect 3 it is shown that any Geth with the ability to speak has this.
- Also in this category is Shepard's Blood Dragon Armornote , which has a helmet with an opaque visor.
- Clanky from Backyard Sports has a lightbulb on his head which flashes in sync whenever Clanky "speaks."
- Halo. The Monitors' eye light in the center of their 'body' flashes in sync with their speech. Funnily enough, a glitch in Halo 2 reversed it, causing the light to dim instead whenever they spoke.
- Johnson actually addresses Monitor 343 Guilty Spark as "lightbulb" because of the effect.
- A non-technological example: when Protoss characters in Starcraft talk, their eyes flash and change colors. Protoss have no mouths and speak telepathically, so the eye glow serves as a nice visual aid during mission briefings.
- Ringing Lightbulbs are standard equipment for the residences of the hard of hearing. Many flash in different patterns or colors, to distinguish whether it's the doorbell, the telephone, or the fire alarm that's out to attract the occupant's attention.
- The Amazon Echo does this to let the user know that it is listening to their commands.
- Cellular phones will often use flashing lights, in the form of an LED or the phone's screen (sometimes both at once) in conjunction with the ringtone and vibrating function in order to get the owner's attention. Some phones can be programmed to flash the light in different colors and patterns based on why it needs your attention (missed call, text message, email, Facebook update, etc.)
- Many electronic children's toys with sound chips in them also have parts on them that light up when "speaking".