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Ambiguous Robots

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Your guess is as good as ours.

Creatures which may or may not be robotic, or organic, or some mixture. They usually appear to have artificial mechanisms behind their creation, or perhaps they have what appear to be robotic parts connected to (or growing from) their bodies. Then again, they may have fur, or be salivating or perhaps move in a fashion too animalistic to be considered robotic. In extreme examples they might be composed of inorganic materials deliberately mimicking the form and function of biological organs, leading to artificial muscles and blood. In short, the viewer will wonder "Cyborg, or machine with organic parts?"

The ambiguity between machine and creature is never resolved. Most of the time, it is never even mentioned. This is often deliberately designed to invoke the Uncanny Valley principle.

Disclaimer: in order for this trope to properly apply, there has to be genuine and unresolved ambiguity either visually or philosophically. An obviously cyborg character being accused of being more machine than man doesn't really count.

May be related to Mechanical Lifeforms and Robeasts. See also Starfish Robots.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Armitage III, "Thirds" are frequently said to be robots, and we know they are artificially created, but they are capable of bearing children, so who knows how you're supposed to classify them.
  • The "boomers" from Bubblegum Crisis: Tokyo 2040. When they are functioning normally, they look like normal metallic humanoid robots, but when they go berserk, their features "melt" and gain teeth and/or Combat Tentacles. One episode even deals with an engineered creature that preys on and devours rogue boomers.
  • The Klaxosaurs from DARLING in the FRANXX are never outright described by the cast as biological or mechanical. While they have blood and pursue food in the form of the titular mechs' "Magma Energy" fuel, they also seem to be made of some kind of living metal, sport Tron Lines, and feature mechanical bits like drills, thrusters, laser cannons, and tank treads. They also have a nasty habit of transforming mid-fight, which would either make them Transforming Mecha or Voluntary Shapeshifters.
  • A lot of Digimon are like this. Some are Cyborgs by classification but apparently lack any organic parts (like Kendo Garurumon and Jager Loweemon) whereas others are never specifically referred to as robotic at all, yet for all intents and purposes appear to be mecha (most of the Royal Knights are like this, as well as a good majority of other mega level Digimon).
  • In Eureka Seven, the LFOs (Light-Finding Operation) and KLFs (Kraft Light Fighter) are organic with armor and control mechanisms added on. They find the templates in mines, conveniently shaped to be one seater mecha (although at least one has a tandem cockpit). The Nirvash is unique both because it was the first one ever found and because it is explicitly shaped as a pair (next to each other, not one behind the other) two-seater.
  • Section 9's cyborg police from Ghost in the Shell. Are they humans with cybernetic implants or robots with organic parts? They even wonder themselves.
  • The "Bird Human" from Macross Zero. It's been dormant for thousands of years, and it reattaches its head without issue using metallic clamps, but it moves like a living creature, and its "cockpit" interface is clearly organic. The Protoculture built it as an attempt to imitate the biotechnology of the Vajra, perhaps explaining its living characteristics.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion, the Humongous Mecha turn out to be not only organic but also forcibly trapped in the mech suits, in order to limit their power. It's very difficult to tell where the technology ends and the organic bits begin.

    Comic Books 
  • In Runaways, Victor Mancha was created by Ultron to pass for a human, with a blend of organic and mechanical parts that was supposed to skew towards organic as he reached maturity, so that he would be indistinguishable from a human by the time he became an adult. This has led to some debate in-universe about his status, as demonstrated during Civil War (2006), when S.H.I.E.L.D. declares that he's a machine and thus they can use lethal ordinance against him.
  • In the Spirou & Fantasio album Machine qui Rève, the other Spirou is alternatively called a clone or an android, and while his leg wound is abnormal, it's not specified how exactly.

    Films — Animated 
  • Ark:
    • Amarinth's pet canary, Juju, is either a cute robot or a cyborg-bird. It resembles a canary with organic features, is clearly sentient and capable of obeying its master, but it has a battery power source on its back that needs to be recharged or it lose consciousness entirely.
    • The villain Baramanda have his own legion of Praetorian Guard mooks, who looks humanoid, but their skin is clearly mechanical (evidenced by the clanging sounds when being shot at by Rogan and Jallak), their joints and movements emits machine noises, their faces resembles a Cyber Cyclops and they are incapable of speech, only bleeping.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Galaxy Super-express has the titular Super-Express' conductor, a cuddly alien who appears to be organic, but is mentioned in magazines, promotional materials and the wiki as a robot. It's never confirmed within the film (or manga), so whether said character is a robot or not is still unknown.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Common fanon that Michael Bishop from Alien³ is an android in disguise as his actor, Lance Henriksen had played an android in Aliens can't decide whether his character is a human or a robot, depending on when you ask him.
  • The Chitauri as they appear in The Avengers (2012). They appear to be mostly organic with a few cybernetic enhancements, yet the entire army is killed when their mothership is blown up, shutting them down like robots.
  • The Replicants in Blade Runner. They appear to be organic, but are they Ridiculously Human Robots or genetically engineered humans? We never really get a look at their insides.
  • Skeletor's Centurions in Masters of the Universe. We're never quite sure whether these are men in armor or robots. They move and fight a lot like living people, but an awful lot of sparks fly out of them when they're struck with swords and laser blasts.
  • In the commentary for Star Trek (2009), J. J. Abrams can't decide if the police officer chasing young Kirk is an android or a human wearing armour.
  • Star Wars: Especially early in the series, some viewers were confused about whether or not Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers were humans or robots. The Empire Strikes Back deliberately included a glimpse of Vader's scarred, unmasked head, and later movies have emphasized that the Stormtroopers (and their Clone Trooper predecessors) are human as well.
  • The Super Inframan has the last two monsters, the Twin Iron Robots, who seems to be mechanical but have a humanoid appearance. They could be either robots or Mechanical Lifeforms (since the villainess has an array of monsters of various types), but the film doesn't confirm if they're actual robots or not.
  • The alien in Virus appears to be a creature made of electrical energy, but can interface with computers and directly control them. It then creates bizarre robots that incorporate the bodies and organs of the crew of the ship it has taken over. Moreover, it's never really stated why these machines use organic components.

    Literature 
Examples by author:
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • One short story concerns a hunt for a lost planet that functions as a psychology experiment. Robots, "with much simpler bodies than our own", are implanted with the laws of psychology and are unknowing of their status as robots. Then it is mentioned that New York is one of the cities on the planet.
    • "Evidence": Steven Byerley is running for mayor, but his opponents claim that he's a robot made after the original was paralyzed in a car crash. He publicly proves his humanity by punching a heckler which the Three Laws of Robotics wouldn't allow him to do. The end of the story points out that the heckler may have also been a robot, and injuring other robots is not forbidden by the Three Laws.
Examples by work:
  • The Biots (short for "biological robot") from Rendezvous with Rama are so intricately engineered that explorers initially can't tell if they're alive or mechanical, or something in between. Dissection of a specimen reveals that they have organs and appendages like living things, but are powered by batteries, meaning they don't need to eat or breathe. And based on their behavior, it's apparent that they were designed to perform a suite of very specific tasks, in order to maintain Rama's pristine condition between star systems.
  • In Venus Prime, Howard Falcon lost most of his human body in an accident and now exists as a human brain inside an otherwise mechanical body. The Council of Worlds (the successor to the United Nations) is still hashing out whether or not he still qualifies as a human.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Millennium trilogy, the Grigari resemble Skele Bots visually. When damaged, however, they bleed something that might be blood and might be coolant; they seem to have organic parts inside the "bones". Starfleet never does work out what they really are.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica:
    • The Cylons in Battlestar Galactica (1978) started out like this: the original idea was that they were reptilian beings in armored robot-like suits, but that idea got nixed when they were established as the robotic descendants of a reptilian race.
    • The Cylons in Battlestar Galactica (2003) end up like this: various examples run the gamut from straight-up robots to bio-mechanical hybrids of various flavors to Ridiculously Human Robots.
  • Garade in Chousei Kantai Sazer X. He's a tall six-eyed metal man who looks robotic, but he can also eat food and is apparently descended from one of the Three Shoguns, who are organic aliens.
  • Farscape:
    • Bioloids: Bio-robots or artificially constructed cyborgs? It's hard to tell. Similar to the example of the Androids in Alien, in that they are clearly artificial, but their inner workings appear to be at least partially organic, and their name only reinforces this ambiguity.
    • The Coreeshi bounty hunters permanently graft themselves into their bio-mechanical looking armored suits (making them very similar to Cyborgs), and what we saw of their true form (we think) was a viscous orange goo. However, a Scarran spy was also able to graft himself surgically into such a suit.
  • In The Good Place, Janets are type of supernatural entity with robot-like traits, such as a desire to serve, a limited emotional range, and Ambiguous Gender Identity. Janets, and especially the series' main Janet, are quick to correct people that they are "not a robot" and "not a girl", but they never get around to saying what exactly they are.
  • In His Dark Materials, we have the Spyflies. They resemble mechanical beetles that are programmed to hunt targets and sting them with sleeping venom. However, they are completely outside the realm of technology seen within the series, and act more like insects than mechanical drones. In the books they're what can only be described as Clock Punk Magitek devices said to have bad spirits inside them.
  • The Mirror Monsters in Kamen Rider Ryuki all have a mechanical appearance, yet they display an instinctual compulsion to prey upon humans and dissipate into energy when killed.

    Multiple Media 
  • BIONICLE:
    • For the first few years, it seemed that most of the characters were Mechanical Lifeforms, but they were later revealed to have some organic components such as muscle and lung tissue (meaning they're technically cyborgs). Just to highlight this trope, there's another setting where the ratio is reversed: characters are mostly organic with some cybernetic enhancements. Yet, thanks in part to always wearing heavy armor, the mostly-organic characters don't look much different from the mostly-robotic ones. The stories and novels imply this might not be the case in-universe: when a Bara-Magna native (mostly organic) sees the Matoran for the first time, he initially mistakes them for robots, except that their movements are too smooth for them to be purely mechanical. By contrast, when the Toa first encounter Gresh, they mistake him for some kind of monster created by Makuta. This despite the fact that the only noticable difference between their sets is their heads. In another story, Gelu, another Bara-Magnan, comments on the fact that the Toa's eyes are essentially just machines (yet still capable of reflecting emotion), suggesting that organic beings have more "normal" eyes than what their figures and visual mediums would've suggested.
    • How this is depicted in different media is very varied. Only the first three Direct to Video movies went out of their way to actually show muscle and other kinds of tissue. In the fourth (starring the mostly organic character variants), they are all completely mechanical in appearance. It's quite likely the creators of said movie simply had no idea what kind of beings they were making a movie about.
    • The toys weren't of much help in this matter. The action features required them to have all sorts of gears inside them, and it wasn't until the Voya Nui saga (2006) that the first and only figures with actual rubber muscles came out (there are also rubber collectibles like Kraata slugs or sea squids, but those aren't technically figures). And even those only had rubber on certain parts — the Piraka on their face and back, and the Toa Inika wore fleshy rubber masks.
  • Transformers:
    • Depending on the Writer and the continuity, Transformers can sometimes fall under this trope: some versions of their origin story say they're a constructed race of robots that might or might not have been slaves who Turned Against Their Masters, others portray them as Mechanical Lifeforms that somehow evolved naturally. Whichever version is true, their creation happened so far into the past that it's not just ancient history but paleontology to the Cybertronians themselves.
    • Quite a few creatures in the original The Transformers: the Quintessons, the Morphobot plants, and the giant egg creature from "The Secret of Omega Supreme". Many of the alien races from Season 3 also look vaguely robotic.
    • In Beast Wars, both the Maximals and Predacons acquire "Beast Modes" that allow them to endure exposure to energon radiation. It is unclear how organic they are this point, but Rhinox is seen eating at one point, and Tarantulus devours rats and mice on more than one occasion. In Beast Machines, the Maximals get "reformatted" into what the show explicitly refers to as techno-organic beings. The Maximals are all based on animals, though Botanica the robot Plant Person, joins later.
    • Sari Sumdac in Transformers: Animated, being the end result of a Cybertronian protoform scanning a human being as its alt-mode.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Phyrexians of Magic: The Gathering get here from both roads. Phyrexian dogma holds that the flesh is inherently imperfect and must be upgraded to stand "compleated" in Phyrexia's embrace; similarly any non-Phyrexian machines are pale imitations of the glory of Phyrexia and must be made suitably Phyrexian, which typically includes at least a few biological extras.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Number 6: Chronomaly Atlandis and its evolution Number C6: Chronomaly Chaos Atlandis are both Machine-Type monsters. However, both have no apparent mechanical parts, save for the ring around Chronomaly Atlandis' chest, with both of them being massive golems made of magma and earth.

    Video Games 
  • With the way Caldarius from Battleborn constantly wears his suit, many characters through various lines think he's actually some sort of robot or possibly a mech piloted by something small. While it's just a suit he wears as far as anyone can tell, it's interesting to note that he is according to various parts of his lore and even from the devs themselves, Caldarius is not a pure blood Jennerit. He is actually a Kemessian, a species which is not exactly fully specified in detail other than some ambiguous hints.
  • BioShock Infinite has the Songbird, a giant, seemingly robotic bird. Jeremiah Fink's laboratory suggests that there is a living creature inside, possibly human, but it is never explained how much of a living person and how much of a mechanical bird it is. Songbird dies by drowning but then, he may simply not be waterproof. Very little of its backstory is given, but its technology is equivalent to the cyborg Big Daddies of BioShock and it has a "personality". On the other hand, it's far larger than a human being can be, exists in a setting where crude AIs are commonplace as turrets and floating gun platforms, and it can be controlled via a flute.
  • The Scrin from Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars appear to be attack drones in the form of various insects, whose weaponry and technological parts are not so much added to them as to be part of their body in the first place. At the same time, they appear to have blood, and various in game sources mention selective breeding.
  • Destiny: The Vex have mechanical bodies and are linked by a network, but their "brains" are a soup of microbes called radiolaria. Microbes that evolved to be capable of computation and constructing mechanical bodies.
  • In Evolve, several of the monsters that appear only in background stories and concept art have mechanical parts. This is result of the monsters creating their physical forms out of anything they understand enough to make. Once they assimilated a human mind in the form of Kala, they were fully capable of growing AI cores and energy weapons just as easily as flesh and bone.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Cait Sith. Supplementary material can describe him as anywhere from a stuffed doll that was given life and autonomy through magic by Reeve, to just a robot with fur that Reeve controls from far away.
  • Final Fantasy XIII: This is pretty much the dominant design aesthetic. We know that the military 'militarizes' wild animals, making them more robotic, but it's unclear how far this process extends. The wild animals often have a somewhat robotic appearance to begin with, and the 'robots' that don't have wild counterparts generally still have animalistic designs. The fal'Cie look like impossible creatures of living stone and metal.
  • The Engi of FTL: Faster Than Light are sentient clusters of nanomachines, but whether they were artificially created or are simply Mechanical Lifeforms is unclear.
  • Half-Life 2: Pretty much all the Synths used by the Combine, especially the Strider, which looks like a giant insect, moves around very fluidly, has internal organs (shown when Dog rips out one's brain), and appears to shriek in pain when it dies. It also has a gun growing out of it. In general, Synths are implied to be living creatures forcibly converted into cyborgs by the Combine, much like what they're doing to humans, but it's often hard to tell where organic flesh ends and machinery begins.
  • Steel Soul Jinn from Hollow Knight is fully covered in metal and acts very robotic, but little about her true nature is revealed.
  • illWill (2023) has the "Spider" enemies, who, despite their names, are not actual spiders but mechanical eyeballs on robotic spider-legs. However, they spill red blood when killed like several organic enemies. The fact that there's another unnamed Mecha Mook-type enemy that explodes in sludge doesn't help either.
  • The Metal Heads of Jak and Daxter are an even split of biological and mechanical. They have rather bestial forms ranging from gorillas to scorpions and are born via egg clusters, but they have clear mechanical elements in their bodies. Many of these elements are used for weapons and in some cases, flight, meaning that they don't require vehicles at all and instead have specialized units to fulfill those roles.
  • The Karmakeeper, the main character of Karmaflow: The Rock Opera Videogame, is a sort of floating rhombus shaped thing with Tron Lines and Hot Wings, has no other visible limbs, doesn't make a sound and a horned head. The only other character that looks like that is the resident tutorial and ability giver, while the rest appear much more but still vaguely humanoid and organic. At the end, it is at least confirmed that the Karmakeeper is a constructed being.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Mass Effect:
    • We know the Reapers reproduce by liquefying various races and then converting that liquid into a new Reaper, but they still look and sound entirely mechanical. This ambiguity is to be expected though, as they are basically Mecha Cthulhu.
    • Praetorians move and look like an insect, make organic sounding noises, and obviously have organic parts (you can see several husks jammed into their bodies), but everything else is completely mechanical. Fitting, as they were made with Reaper technology.
    • In one of the endings of Mass Effect 3, all life in the galaxy becomes this, as organic and synthetic life are joined to become some new sort of hybrid with characteristics of both.
    • In-universe, nobody is sure if the Citadel's Keepers are genetically engineered creatures, aliens that are incapable or refuse to speak to the new inhabitants, or are bio-mechanical constructs built by the station. Mass Effect 2 implies they were one of the first races harvested by the Reapers and repurposed as a slave workforce for the Citadel, much like the Protheans were later converted into the Collectors. As Mordin so aptly notes about the latter:
      Mordin: No glands, replaced by tech. No digestive system, replaced by tech. No soul, replaced by tech!
    • The Geth, while explicitly identified as robots, still have distinctly organic-looking curves and surfaces and have visible muscle striations on their limbs. They even bleed when you shoot them; in-universe it's "conductive fluid" but it looks a lot like white blood. According to the Codex this is a recent development as they build increasingly advanced platforms, and nobody really knows why they did it.
  • Mega Man:
    • Pretty much everyone in Mega Man Legends. Cybernetics are so widespread in this world that it's impossible to tell for sure who is a robot and who is a human. Its later revealed that all the humans are actually "carbons" or "decoys" in Japan, which are human beings descended from artificially created humans. Exactly what separates carbons from regular humans is never revealed, though it has been revealed they are biologically more related to humans than robots such as reploids.
    • There used to be a species of humans of ambiguous mechanical-biological ratio in Mega Man ZX, after they combined into one species with Reploids (they were called "humans" for short, as far as we can tell in the Legends backstory), but those went extinct long ago, leaving behind artificial creations and several superpowered killer robots designed to wipe out all the Carbons periodically to keep them at a low level of development and presumably to make them better servants for the now-extinct human-reploid hybrids.
    • Bon Bonne is treated as the brother of the obviously human/carbon Tiesel and Tron, but appears to be a Mini-Mecha. Is he a baby in a mech suit, a cyborg with a baby brain or a robot with the AI of a baby?
    • Mega Man Trigger himself. On one hand, he's referred to as a purifier unit, and treated as a robot. Yet it's also said that he regressed into an infant form at one point, and is physically indistinguishable from a carbon.
  • Metal Gear:
    • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty the automated Metal Gear RAYs in the Arsenal Gear bleed out red "lubrication fluid" when shot.
    • The Geckos in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots appear to be giant organic legs with an AT-ST head on top. They bellow like cattle when entering combat and spew black fluid when "killed". The background establishes that a Gekko's legs are produced from ungulate stem cells grown into legs, and the fluid they leak when hit between the legs, particularly in Revengence, is the lactic acid that builds up in the muscles.
    • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance:
      • Both automated RAYs and Gekkos are types of UG (Unmanned [Metal] Gear) piloted by an AI, but instead of a computer they use an "optical-neuro" brain structurally similar to human brains. Most UGs are almost animals (Raptors briefly go "feral" when one of their own is killed for example) while the far more complicated Bladewolf (whose brain has 90 billion neural connections, more than a human brain) arguably has a more human mind than some of the supposed humans, who all have nanomachines modifying their thoughts and emotions.
      • The Final Boss looks human on the outside despite having a mechanical nature that he can turn on and off at will, and unlike the Cyborg characters, there's no clue or hint of where his body ends and where the cybernetics begin, or if there's even a distinction at all. Calling Doktor has him talk about theories regarding a centrally controlled "colony" of nanomachines molded into a human shape, but it's clear that's only speculation. This is even invoked to an extent, as said boss is a senator running for president and thus couldn't have any manner of visible augments; what he got instead had even Raiden's intel providers completely fooled until the mecha-wrecking fists start flying.
  • To a certain extent, Meta Ridley from Metroid Prime, as there's nothing to indicate how much of him is still living and how much is robotic.
  • Mortal Kombat X: Hypothetically, Triborg is a robot running copies of the cyborgs Cyrax, Sektor, and Cyborg Smoke as software, but he still has a human skeleton and organs visible when "X-Ray" moves and fatalities are performed on him, suggesting that a human body of some sort was used in his creation.
  • Mother:
    • The debates over whether the Starmen of EarthBound (1994) are robots or aliens in space suits have been going on forever. The actual in-game mechanics mostly make no difference, sudden guts pills and refuels both work on robots and humans alike.note  The Starmen, however, are unaffected by the Rust Promoter, which is effective against mechanical enemies. Worth noting in this context is the visual resemblance of Starmen to Gort, the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951).
    • The underwater "oxygen machines" used by the Pigmask army in Mother 3 outwardly appear to be typical mermen (though there's also a land-based centaur model). The fact that they're later shown conversing with one another only makes things more confusing.
  • Overwatch: Zenyatta, Bastion, and Orisa are clearly robots, and Genji is frequently mentioned as being a cyborg, but for much of the other cast, it's unclear which body parts, if any, are artificial and not just covered by armor. Examples include any of Pharah's arms and legs, McCree's left arm, Hanzo's right forearm and feet, Torbjörn's left arm, Reinhardt's entire armor-clad body, Symmetra's left arm, and Lúcio's body below the waist.
  • Pokémon Violet has its version-specific "Paradox Pokémon", offshoots of contemporary Pokémon hailing from the distant future that look robotic in nature. The game's cover Legendary, Miraidon, looks like a robotic offshoot of Cyclizar, for instance. Further obfuscating things is the fact that, except for Iron Treads, none of the Future Pokémon are Steel-type.
  • The Secret World: The Pyramidion, the Illuminati leader. You never see him, but his near-omniscient Sinister Surveillance, excellent planning capacity, his Creepy Monotone and his proclivity for slightly old memes and weird intercom announcements mixed in with his advice and nonchalant memories and recommendations make it a little difficult to decide what he is; he's either an extremely competent, very relaxed and fairly loopy man or a bizarre AI construct using a text-to-speech program.
  • The titular villain's foot soldiers from Shadow Master are either aliens, or robots, which isn't explained in-game. They appear robotic, but their mechanical parts could be armour and when you close in on them you can vaguely see organic facial features. The game running on Bloodless Carnage where organic enemies have death animations like the foot soldiers doesn't help.
  • Shadow of the Colossus: The Colossi are either gigantic robots of stone, or huge hairy monsters. The mechanical faces of the Colossi are clearly artificial, but parts of their bodies are quite biological.
  • The main species of Spiral Knights were mistaken for Mechanical Lifeforms for the longest time due to the energy system.
  • Some of Splatoon's more mechanical Octarian enemies fall under this. While it’s explained that the bosses are mechanical weapons, each controlled by a sentient tentacle, there are times when it’s unclear how much of them is truly inorganic. For example, the Octostomp is carried by a realistic pair of legs attached to the bottom, the Octonozzle has tentacle suckers sticking out from the sides, and the Octo Oven contains loaves of bread with faces — apparently, Octarians baked into the bread.
  • Mimi from Super Paper Mario certainly looks and acts like a person, but her spider form has gears coming out of the side of her head. In general, Mimi is an ambiguous figure due to her Multiple-Choice Past, and the game doesn't exactly confirm which of the theories surrounding her true nature is correct.
  • Warframe:
    • It's not clear how much of a Warframe is organic, how much of it is the Tenno operator, and how much of it is mechanical. Vauban has obvious mechanical bits and looks like a dude wearing a heavy coat and a hat, while frames like Saryn or Zephyr look more like they're grown from the Technocyte virus. And then there's Nidus. The story quest The Second Dream reveals that the Tenno is not even present in the Warframe, but instead pilots it remotely from a distance through a process known as 'Transference'. However, the climax of the same quest also sees a Warframe apparently acting on its own accord to save its Tenno, which just raises the question of what is inside it. The various Infested Mutalist enemies are grown from robots infected by the technocyte virus, leading to mechanical monstrosities that spew out bile yet short out when killed. It's revealed in the quest The Sacrifice that Warframes are humans infested with a strain of Technocyte called "Helminth", which renders a body unrecognizable and devoid of will, though not personality. The Warframe is then built onto this mutant body, which the Tenno takes control of and channels void abilities though Transference. The Foundry can synthesize a Warframe on the molecular level, recreating it in precise detail — even, if given a complete enough blueprint (like an Orokin Vitruvian device), down to the memories and thoughts it had at the time of scanning.
    • This trope is taken even further with the Sentients. While they were created by the Orokin and have a lot of traits common to robots (artificial beings, can subvert technology) they also seem to bleed, look like they're made of muscle and bone, and are explicitly stated to be able to reproduce, complete with a womb. The Sentients blur the line between organism and machine more than anything else in the game.
  • The Cyberdiscs in XCOM: Enemy Unknown are so strange and so different from most other mechanical enemies in the game your researchers begin to speculate if it is some form of silicon-based life-form rather than a machine.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles: The three cores of the Trinity Processor, Ontos, Logos, and Pneuma (a.k.a. Alvis, Malos, and Pyra/Mythra) undoubtedly were machines initially, but whether they remained that way or ascended into something more by the time the first two games took place is unclear. In particular, Pneuma (both forms of her) is capable of bearing biological children.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X:
    • The Milsaadi are a species of Silicon-Based Life, and as such are often mistaken for robots when first seen. Their skin looks metallic, their eyes glow red, and their voices have a noticeable reverb. Nonetheless, they are suggested to be fully... whatever the silicon equivalent of "organic" is.
    • The Oc-servs, Fal-swos, and Xe-doms running around the landscape of Mira are not creations of the Ganglion, but something they dug up on the planet and reprogrammed into serving them. Despite their mechanical nature, the metal they're made of is suggested to be "alive" in some sense, and doesn't match any known alloy.
    • The humans in the game all inhabit robotic bodies called mimeosomes, which are outwardly completely identical to a living human. They breathe, they eat, they sleep... they can even "bleed out" and "die" due to losing bio-circulatory plasma. In fact, the player character (and the player themselves) don't even realize they're in a robot body until a fair way into the story! One character even questions if the mimeosome bodies are human-like enough to conceive children (answer: no, they can't).

    Visual Novels 

    Web Originals 
  • Dr Glaucomflecken: Ophthalmologist's Scribes, called Jonathans, need to be recharged every night, don't speak, are able to do massive amounts of work within seconds, and can be packed in suitcases when traveling. However, they look human, and Word of God says that they can be fed.
  • Orion's Arm has natural biologicals, genetically engineered creatures, cyborgs, fully mechanical people, AI, and every possible combination thereof, but generally you can make a guess as to whether something is primarily a "biont" (biological creature), a "vec" (machine), or an AI. That is, until you get to the Archailects, who are colloquially called "AI Gods" but do not consider themselves either biological or mechanical in nature. Most are a fusion of the two, and consider such distinctions to be unimportant.
  • In Overside, the Machine Men are this. It's eventually established (in the second full-length story) that they're the metal descendants of rock golems.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: The Crown Agent Mooks look like the standard Mecha-Mooks expected from cartoons of the era; full, concealing armor, voices that sound like they were run through a synthesizer... but they never act like robots. They take bribes, panic when appropriate, and one of them goes renegade (becoming leader of a lost tribe of human colonists in "Lord of the Sands"). It's also telling that the team's hacker can pull a Hack Your Enemy on computers and more obviously mechanical enemies but never even tries it on the Agents.
  • In Chuggington, Vee is either a human who only communicates through the PA system or — in this world of living machines — actually the PA system.
  • No one's truly sure what Prime Evil from Filmation's Ghostbusters is supposed to be. He's got this Terminator look about him, but then he has seemingly-organic arms and hands. Since parts of his head are the same color as his hands, one could assume that he has (very expressive) machine parts attached to his skull! And then he's a warlock on top of all that. Android? Cyborg? Ghost? Warlock? The only thing that's certain is that he is one bad dude.
  • In Gadget Boy & Heather, the writers apparently can't make up their mind on whether Gadget Boy is a fully artificial robot designed after Inspector Gadget or a cyborg. Robot Dog G9 has the same problem, although it's less pronounced.
  • From Mixels are the Mixels themselves. With shiny outer skin in various colors that looks metallic, they still have various organs like humans, and also have the need to eat, yet also have abilities that are pure technology embedded into them, like gears and meters.
  • The creators of Samurai Jack deliberately blurred the line between organic and mechanical with Jack's enemies in order to get around the censors, because killing a living thing is deemed not okay, but destroying a robot is, even if it's clearly sentient. As such, any part that Jack actually cuts will turn out to be cybernetic, and anything he kills will be a robot.
  • The Gems of Steven Universe look pretty human but are quickly revealed to be pseudo-organic Hard Light bodies projected by a pseudo-magic rock. Later, they're revealed to not only use cores based on the same principles as their technology, but to actually manufacture those bodies for specific purposes and have specific product lines, putting the gems somewhere between Starfish Aliens and Starfish Robots, depending on how you define robot. The show's own creator, perhaps jokingly, referred to them as "solar-powered robots".
  • Tecna of Winx Club looks totally human, or at least as Human Alien as the rest of the girls do, but Word of God has called her a 'fairy cyborg', implying that she might be part robot. It's never stated outright either way, and Word of God is being translated from Italian, sometimes worse than others, so it's possible it's even a case of misunderstanding that she's a 'technology fairy'.

    Other 
  • Much of the paintings of H. R. Giger (who designed the Xenomorphs mentioned on the Alien entry above) depicts organic (frequently human) life and machinery intermingling to a point where it's difficult to tell where flesh ends and metal begins.


Alternative Title(s): Ambiguous Robot

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