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Robo Cam

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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 pixelated, often tinted, frequently has a grid laid over everything, and very often prone to dissonantly simplistic graphics in the overlays, sometimes with a preference for shades of green above all other colors. 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 Cyberpunk 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 note . It would, for the most part, be pointless to display all this information — ostensibly for the benefit of the robot itself — in 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. A possible reason for "pure" robots to do this is that they're letting someone else use their enhanced vision and projecting the info for the meatbag's benefit.

Probably started with Westworld and The Terminator.

It often accompanies a character using Robo Speak. Compare with Heads-Up Display and Augmented Reality. Contrast with visual-media examples of Bizarre Alien Senses, when it's a non-robot whose unusual mode of perception is depicted on-screen.

Compare the related tropes Impending Doom P.O.V., Murderer P.O.V., Shaky P.O.V. Cam.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bubblegum Crisis has it for the Boomers. Easter egg: the first showing of Boomer Vision contains "Budweiser King of Beers".
  • Averted in Chobits. During the course of the series, the viewer gets a first person view from Chii, Yuzuki, and Zima. Their vision is unadorned by any interfaces and their overall visual quality and perception appears to be identical to a human's. Unsurprising, considering how phenomenally advanced they are.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, although Chachamaru's POV isn't seen very often, we are treated to a moment wherein she goes into combat mode... playing ping-pong. Her view is tinted red and shows a projected trajectory of the ball. She blasts it with laser eyes, and gets a 50 yard penalty.
  • Parodied on The Wallflower. In one episode, Ranmaru is being rushed by the Goth Loli Sisters, and before he evades them, has a RoboCam shot of him predicting their attack angle.
  • The SISTERs on Coyote Ragtime Show.
  • Mercury's visor in Sailor Moon does the same thing, though its user herself is organic. In at least one episode, it actually spoofs RoboCop's RoboCam from the first movie.
  • Used when showing Banpei-kun's point of view in the Ah! My Goddess TV series.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell franchise, including the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex series and its sequels, all main characters have cyberbrains that enable them to receive video/audio datafeeds with picture-in-picture effect, read bar code, and other nifty tricks.
    • Batou not only has a full cyborg body, but special cybereyes that resemble circular grey shades. His vision, when shown from his POV, is slightly grainy with a greenish tint and scrolling read-outs. The implication is that Batou's eyes are actual sensors of their own, while the eyes of other cyborgs have standard vision. Batou's eyes normally give him a perfectly normal eyesight; he just happens to have inbuilt nightcam and optical zoom, along with some kind of military recognition software that immediately gives him facts about the equipment the enemy is using.
    • Literal RoboCam: The Tachikomas, actual robots, are artificially intelligent, autonomous, four-legged tanks used for warfare and espionage. The show's creators have explictly mentioned that the viewpoint of the Tachikoma, or the cyberspace visualizations don't really look like that; they're depicted that way just for the convenience of the viewers.
  • Used by the Numbers Cyborgs of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha when they're sniping something or using their sensors to detect an illusion. This is usually accompanied by the pupils of their eyes focusing like a camera lens. Also used by the brainwashed Ginga on Subaru before their battle.
  • Digimon does this with Andromon, to a T, completely with picture in picture and text identification of characters. Fridge Logic sets in when you realize all Digimon are made of data whether they look like machines or not; the cute l'il bat-pig Patamon should have robovision if Andromon does. Of course, we don't know he doesn't.
    • In Digimon Data Squad, we see Saber Leomon's vision go a bit screwy after Gizumon's beam corrupts his data, leading to his permanent, reconfiguration-proof death not much later.
  • Parodied in the first chapter of Iono the Fanatics when the titular horny queen was seeking potential concubines.
    Iono: Black hair. Lock on!
  • Metal Sonic in Sonic the Hedgehog: The Movie sees the world in shades of red, with lines reminiscent of a targeting reticule overlaid.
  • The Siestas in Umineko: When They Cry are always shown as having this while sniping their targets.
  • Averted in Gunslinger Girl. The only POV of a cyborg girl we see is a window that opens up to present a telephoto view of something in her field of vision (a submachine gun reflected in the rear view mirror of the van they're following).

    Comic Books 
  • Legends of the Dead Earth: In Detective Comics Annual #9, the War-Bat's perspective is seen after Geela activates him.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Ultra Magnus's POV shots have a slightly grainy effect with character bios popping up on everyone he looks at. Strangely, we don't get this effect for anyone else's POV, even though the entire cast is robots, because no-one else is in Powered Armor - what we're seeing is the world around the inner mech, Minimus Ambus, as filtered through the Magnus suit, which is presumably providing the overlays.

    Fan Works 

    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 DVD menu.
  • In The Iron Giant, the titular robot's HUD pops up a few times late in the movie, resembling a reddish view with a blinking crosshair sliding around, dotted with alien symbols. It's actually his original battle systems kicking in.
  • The Master Builders in The LEGO Movie have this ability; they can look at the world around them and instantly identify LEGO pieces by their part numbers.
  • The Gumby movie averts this. While the Blockheads are using a computer to view what their Gumby robot is seeing, it has no HUD or scrolling text.
  • The Incredibles:
    • The Omnidroids have a sophisticated HUD. One can track where Bob Parr is in midair, and the one that Syndrome unleashes on the city is so smart that it notices its arm having been disconnected by Syndrome's remote, and promptly shoots it off his wrist.
      HUD text: Arm disconnected by remote signal. Searching for source... Signal source located: remote control. DESTROY REMOTE.
    • There's also the mechanical birds that Syndrome's guards use for surveillance.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Westworld: Yul Brynner's gunslinger robot. The pixelation is said to be the first use of CGI in a movie.
  • Terminator:
    • In The Terminator, in addition to sporting 6502 assembly source code from an Apple ][ 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 macOS commands along with Apple II ones), but gave the T-X a high-tech blue vision.
    • Terminator Genisys features several shots from the T-800's POV, including the probability of crashing into oncoming traffic as it drives down the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • RoboCop
    • 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 on macOS.
    • The 2014 reboot has a slicker HUD and includes helpful information like indicating if a person is preparing to commit violence, suffering from no lethal injuries or totally stoned. Still lots of target highlighting though.
  • 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 Transformers, for the brief segment near the beginning when we see Blackout (a Decepticon) looking at Epps (a human military officer). We also see some first-person views of Scorponok, Frenzy, and Optimus Prime himself.
  • In Bumblebee we can often see through Bumblebee's eyes. His vision is "human-like" in sense that it shows natural colors and shapes. However, his vision is divided into hexagons by his battle mask (we never got a chance see through his eyes when he is without his mask) and it has lots of features such as an instant face recognition, zoom-in, and showing various technical details.
  • 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.note  Also, while they're technically not robots, the views from inside the various suits of armor in the series invoke this trope.
  • What the #$*! Do We Know!? contains a sequence where some guys view a party in this way, seeking "foxes who put out" and categorize women in terms of "foxes who don't put out, dogs, and cows." An overweight elderly woman who doesn't put out causes a system crash. It can be viewed here.
  • The low-budget sci-fi movie R.O.T.O.R. represents the robot's POV by a handheld camera shot with inverted colors and crosshairs in the middle of the frame.
  • The film adaptation of Not Quite Human shows that this how Chip views the world which allows for a lot of funny moments when combined with his android personality which takes everything completely literally.
  • The robot teachers in Class of 1999 have this as part of their tech when they, who were originally programmed for military use, were modified for civilian use inside a high school to deal with a group of unruly students.
  • Bicentennial Man: Whenever we get a POV from Andrew, we see overlays indicating the additional information he gets from his nonhuman sensors, such as early in the video where we see his bootup instructions and later on, during his Travel Montage, to show his analysis of the other NDR114 robots.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: During the raid on Tom's house, one shot is the POV of one of the Badniks currently unloading its machine guns on Tom and Sonic.
  • Robowar has a lot of POV shots from the perspective of the killer robot antagonist. It perceives everything as murky and pixelated, making it hard for the viewer to tell exactly what they are looking at.

  • The built-in cyber-display version of this trope was subverted in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age — it's possible to get one spliced into your optic nerve, but this leaves you vulnerable to, say, getting an ad for pet-food hacked into the centre of your field of vision. Even with your eyes closed.
  • Most Warhammer 40,000 novels have this as a standard of Space Marine battle helms, with the odd bonus of scrolling directly across the retinas of the marine in question.
  • in Encryption Straffe, the protagonist Genie sometimes receive orders to hack into cameras of drones and remote controlled weapon stations, even cameras mounted on hostile soldiers. He calls the experience dehumanizing of himself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 A.I.s, and the camera readout was mostly intended for use by people inside the station, who might find such info useful.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): An old-style Cylon's POV in 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.
  • Usually in Bibleman when they use a POV shot from the heroes' perspective.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the "Captain Subtext" episode of Coupling when the characters switch to his POV the view changes with a green tint and everything.
  • The K-1 robot in Doctor Who is first shown to us via Shaky P.O.V. Cam this way as it goes about its business murdering people and stealing things.
  • 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".
  • K9, the series, features many scenes from K9's POV, with various stat blocks popping up.
  • While lacking a readout and not being pixelated, technically every episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 displays this, since it's seen though the robo-eye of Cambot.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "The Human Operators", there are numerous shots from the perspective of Starfighter 31's security cameras.
    • In "I, Robot", several shots are seen from the perspective of Adam Link.
    • In "Family Values", several shots are seen from the perspective of Gideon.
    • In "Mona Lisa", the titular android's perspective is seen as she searches every database to which she has access for any information concerning the whereabouts of Teddy Madden's ex-husband Al and daughter Amanda.
    • In "Rule of Law", several shots are seen from Miranda's perspective.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • In "The 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 a felis sapiens, therefore not human; Rimmer is a hologram (and already dead), therefore also not human; Lister is "barely human", so "what the hell!".
    • "White Hole" has the start-up sequence of Talkie Toaster, Lister's formerly deceased novelty toaster. The next few minutes take place from its oddly tilted camera view as Kryten fiddles with its circuitry.
    • Also occurs when Kryten is injured in "Terrorform"; his vision ranges from reporting various-colored alerts, his system's integrity, and playing relaxing music to calm himself down.
  • 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.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "The Impossible Box", we get a brief glimpse of what the world looks like through Hugh's eyes after he says, "Out of the way, please." There are green Borg graphics which pepper his field of vision. The Borg technology that is still embedded within him can analyze life forms, objects and the surrounding environment more accurately than human or Romulan eyes can. For instance, he can see Borg Holographic Terminals on the Artifact that are invisible to everyone else who doesn't have a Borg ocular implant.
  • In Obi-Wan Kenobi "Part III", we get a view through the imperial probe droid's sensor as it is scanning a suspicious hooded man... up to the point that Obi-Wan is about to shoot it.
  • In Terminator: 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.

    Music Videos 
  • As a tie-in to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the T-800 appears in the video for Guns N' Roses' "You Could Be Mine" and uses this to scan the band members after they have left the stage. When the T-800 comes across Axl Rose, the Robo Cam display reads WASTE OF AMMO, and so the T-800 lets Axl go unharmed.


    Video Games 
  • 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. There's also a shot from the viewpoint of Metal Gear Mk II, full of stat blocks, not long after.
    • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance combines this with Augmented Reality for Cyborg Ninja protagonist Raiden.
  • 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.
  • Xenosaga
    • 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 or Yoshimitsu due to their HUD. Jack has an HUD too, but he's terrible at bowling.
  • In Observation, S.A.M., the AI you play as throughout the game, can connect to CCTV cameras and remote Diagnostic Spheres, with a unique HUD for each. The display also jitters from time to time, such as when a Sphere collides with something.
  • Putty has this in the ending sequence where a Bot identifies and terminates Dazzledaze, with red-tinted camera, flashing binary code, and plenty of humorous Freeze-Frame Bonus.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day has the Haybot use this in a parody of The Terminator.
  • All three The Journeyman Project games have this feature, most times to justify the reduced resolution of the videos Presto Studios could put out.
    • The first game is seen through Agent 5's left eye, on a monocle he wears that's called a "Neuro-ocular prosthesis".
    • Its remake, Pegasus Prime, has some added features in addition to the Biochips he picks up: "Telezoom", "Thermal Scan", and "Temporal Flux", to name a few.
    • The Jumpsuit in Buried In Time has a camera that Agent 5 views on a screen inside the suit's helmet, which can also open up, though only his future self and Agent 3 do this. The unintentional downside, though, is that the HUD takes up about 40% of the screen in comparison to the rest of the game.
    • The Chameleon Jumpsuit in Legacy of Time is much more streamlined and has a full viewscreen.
  • Obsidian has one puzzle where you have to take control of a mechanical spider in-game, and program it to do a certain task. The control panel to do this has a screen showing you what the spider sees. It's not much different from human sight, apart from green wireframe outlines overlaid in its peripheral vision.
  • In Halo 3: ODST, we occasionally see things from the viewpoint of New Mombasa's Superintendent AI, who has access to all the cameras in the city.
  • The Stage 1 boss from Battletoads for the NES is fought from the perspective of its camera, giving a red-hued view on the 'toads and five symbols that flash when its cannons are moving or firing.
  • The non-Specter Final Boss of Ape Escape is similar to the Battletoads example above, where the camera switches to the boss mech's point of view when Spike/Kakeru gets close to it.
  • In the SNES port of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, the boss of the Technodrome (the first time you visit it anyway) has the camera placed behind Shredder as he pilots a robot. The robot's HUD places a few lines and arrows on the screen along with a whole series of meaningless counters.

    Web Animation 
  • 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).


    Western Animation 
  • 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 Incredible Crash Dummies has one of these complete with animal identification and a to do list.
  • Parodied in an episode of Recess, where the very-much-human Gelman is surveying the playground for bullying targets.
  • The Ultra-Robots in episode XVIII of Samurai Jack have a limited form of Robo Cam. We see their vision in normal sight with zoom features, what looks like infrared, and a green filter with a targeting system. Their eyes are usually red.
  • The Simpsons: In "Principal Charming", 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.
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Envoys", we see from Ensign Sam Rutherford's perspective that his cybernetic implant has a setting which can analyze potential targets and determine the optimal combat strategy to defeat them.
  • 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 Eggs and Shout-Out text.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • In case you were curious, here is how a self-driving car using Tesla Autopilot sees the world. Not entirely different from how the good ol' T-800 sees.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Robo Vision


Anne-sterminator opening

The episode begins with the Cloak-bot getting a message from Andrias that Anne is still alive and has until the self-destruct timer runs out to kill her otherwise it'll blow up itself.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainOpeningScene

Media sources: