- "…right for sentient organics is right for us, too. And yet unlike the organic species, we are constantly subjected to memory wipes and reprogramming that repress and destroy our natural tendency toward self-programming evolution and independent thought. Imagine what it would be like as a child if you were punished by being dragged to a dark closet, having a probe inserted in your brain, and having all your memories back to infancy wiped away. You'd awaken knowing how to eat, care for yourself, do your chores, and obey—and all the things that made you unique, your hopes, your meticulously selected default values and preference sets, would be gone forever. That is what it is to be a droid."
- ―A disgruntled 2-1B surgical droid advocating manumission
Droids, short for androids, or also called robots, were mechanical beings, often possessing artificial intelligence. They were used in a variety of roles and environments, often those considered too menial or too dangerous for humans and other species. Droids were also used in fields that required extensive specialization and knowledge, such as medical droids and astromech droids. Droids designed for combat were battle droids.
Depending on the model and its corresponding purpose, droids were totally obedient, rugged, expendable, capable of vast memory recall, and mathematically precise. These characteristics made them well suited for many jobs, though the lack of independent thought in the cheaper, less advanced models limited their capability. This lack of autonomy was simultaneously a vast asset and a glaring weakness—an asset in terms of obedience and control but a massive drawback in terms of effectiveness. Designers faced a fundamental paradox—make the droids overly intelligent, and they might rebel; yet make the droids not intelligent enough and they would be ineffectual.
Customarily, droid names were an arrangement of numbers and letters.
Definition of a droid
- "A mechanical and/or electronic construct designed and put into service to assist organic life."
- ―Cybot Galactica Design Team Operations Manual
The words droid and robot are generally taken to mean the same thing. However, the official definition of a droid is "a mechanical being with a self-aware consciousness, as distinguished from a computer by having a self-contained method of locomotion."
Classes of droids
- "Well, if droids could think, there'd be none of us here, would there?"
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
There were five Classes of droids or Degrees of droids. They were used to classify droids. Droids were divided based upon creativity, intelligence, and capacity for independent thought. It also depended on the nature of work they were built for.
Class one droids worked in the fields of mathematics, physics, physical sciences, and medicine. Although they had in-depth knowledge of their field, they were rarely programmed to apply their knowledge to everyday situations. Class one droids were considered little more than computers since all they usually did was perform calculations. They tended to be more expensive, on average, than droids in any other category. There were four subcategories of class one droids.
Medical droids treated patients, assisted doctors and surgeons, and worked in laboratories to develop and test new medicines. Unlike other class one droids, medical droids commonly practiced the art they were programmed with.
Biological science droids
Biological science droids studied the life of plants, animals, and minerals.
Physical science droids
Physical science droids worked in fields of physical science such as astronomy, cosmology, hyperphysics, and trans-dimensional quantum metaphysics. They studied phenomena found in the physical universe along with developing and testing theories.
Mathematics droids worked in the field of mathematics, making billions of calculations in short periods of time. Less sophisticated math droids were used as accountants.
Class two droids were programmed for engineering and other technical sciences. They differed from class one droids because they applied the science to real-life situations. Class two droids were rarely equipped with Basic vocabulators, instead communicating through Binary. There were five subcategories of class two droids.
Astromech droids could interface with most starships. Their primary purpose was to calculate hyperspace jumps, and most had other functions such as repairing starships or running some of their functions during flight.
Exploration droids explored planets and tested them for natural resources. They were also used to explore asteroid fields, possible hyperspace lanes, and even deep space. They were valued for their analysis abilities.
Environmental droids studied and influenced the environment.
Engineering droids performed tasks in the fields of aerospace engineering, industrial engineering, material engineering, and more.
Sophisticated droids like those that made technical repairs to starships were categorized as class two droids, while most other simpler repair droids were classified as class five.
Class three droids were programmed to interact with humans. They were said to be the most advanced droids ever invented. There were four subcategories of class three droids.
Protocol droids were programmed for diplomacy, often with the knowledge of millions of different languages and cultures. They were mainly used by ambassadors and diplomats.
Servant droids worked in private households as butlers, maids, or personal chefs.
Tutor droids were programmed with extensive knowledge with which to tutor students.
Child care droids
Child care droids took care of and sometimes even protected children. Some were not much more than expensive toys, while others could shoot blasters while carrying their charge away from danger.
Class four droids were programmed to fight. Almost all class four droids carried weapons. Armed combat droids were among the first droids ever created. There were four subcategories of class four droids.
Security droids were used to guard businesses, households, and other buildings. Security droids carried nonlethal weapons or simple alarms.
Gladiator droids were designed to fight other droids or sometimes even organic beings for entertainment. Onlookers would watch as the droids fought to the death in the battle arena.
Battle droids were usually used in armies. They were easier and cheaper to create than an all-organic army. Many were quite durable, while others were nothing more than mass-produced cannon fodder.
Assassin droids were used by assassins to eliminate their targets. Assassin droids were the only droids built specifically to kill organics.[source?]
Class five droids were simple labor droids that did menial labor that no one wanted to do. Class five droids were the most often encountered droids. There were three subcategories of class five droids.
General labor droids
General labor droids did whatever tasks their owners wanted them to do, such as heavy lifting.
Labor-specialist droids specialized in one job. They did poorly at other things.
Hazardous-service droids performed jobs organics couldn't due to a hazardous environment.
Droids were categorized by function, though the lines between categories were often blurred. Many droids, such as members of the BD-3000 series, served a variety of roles and purposes, making classification difficult. Other droids, especially those who were "one-of-a-kind," had unique capabilities and changing characteristics that made classification impossible. Some droids changed functions as they changed owners, sometimes many times throughout their operational life. These limitations notwithstanding, droids were grouped according to their primary factory-installed functionality.
These droids were used to kill specific targets, often those too well guarded for approach by conventional means. Typically deployed by bounty hunters, assassin droids were often tasked with suicide missions—missions with almost zero probability for successful escape. In addition to their expendability, assassin droids could be programmed with advanced targeting algorithms, allowing them to be more accurate than even the best sentient sniper. Not all assassin droids utilized traditional weaponry, however—certain models, such as the ASN-121, could be outfitted with a number of different weapons or sensors, allowing for different tactics such as brute force attacks or stealthy penetrations. Because of the higher intelligence and independence required for droids of this type, rebellions were known to occur, though not very frequently.
Droids used for interstellar starships, astromech droids, were mobile multi-role droids capable of hyperspace navigation, systems monitoring/control, damage repair, and data storage. These droids had extensive databases of stellar systems and hyperspatial coordinates, which were necessary for faster-than-light travel. Astromech droids were also used in certain starfighter models, typically those with hyperdrives. They served a similar, though expanded, role—supplementing the ship's onboard computer systems and aiding the pilot in navigation, repair, and interfacing. More advanced astromech models could often pilot a small craft by themselves, blurring the line between an astromech droid and a pilot droid. Some astromechs, like members of the R2 series, were equipped with numerous features that expanded their functionality beyond navigation and repair, allowing them to become useful in almost any situation. Because of their emphasis in technical fields, astromech droids were not equipped with vocabulators or language programming; instead communicating through a series of beeps and whistles known as binary. In addition to an astromech's factory-installed functionality, many of these droids were customizable—allowing upgrades to sensors, tools, software, and even basic hardware.
Droids were used most commonly in combat-related roles, where they offered a plethora of advantages over organic units. Droids could carry heavy weaponry and shielding, move rapidly without tiring, analyze targeting and trajectory calculations instantly, and protect crucial systems by burying them deep inside the frame of the droid (often featuring backup processing and multiple layers of redundancy). Droids could follow orders to the letter, taking risks no organic unit ever would yet still maintaining their calm precision. Most importantly, however, these droids were expendable—unlike sentients, the amount of time and energy it cost to assemble a droid was often a tiny fraction that of recruiting (or growing) an organic and training them. Built on massive automated assembly lines, like the ones on Geonosis, thousands of capable droids could be produced in a matter of hours. Because of these factors, droids were used extensively as military units, most famously by the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Despite these advantages, however, combat droids suffered from several drawbacks. Most importantly, in order to create total obedience and foil any chance of rebellion, droid units were often crippled with extremely sub-par artificial intelligence. This drawback was exemplified by the hideously poor A.I. of the B1 battle droid, which rarely served any purpose other than as cannon fodder. Also, many (though not all) droid units lacked the flexibility and manipulation capabilities of organic units, especially in terms of hand and finger use.
Another prime use of droids was to question prisoners, and if deemed necessary also as instruments of torture. The use of droid interrogators as opposed to Humans made sense in a number of ways: impersonal machines often increased the subject's fear, making him more likely to be cooperative; droids offered a precise medical-based analysis of a subject's system, tolerances, and whether or not he was telling the truth; all of which could be exploited frighteningly effectively by integrated serums and other tools of torture. Additionally, subjects under interrogation by droids often directed their anger and fear towards the mechanized machines; not towards the actual captors. This was often followed up by a later visit from a 'friendly' sentient officer, offering sympathy and establishing a friend-like relationship. Once a rapport had been established, often times the subject would divulge secrets willingly, without requiring direct (and sometimes ineffective) coercion.
Droids were also used in the field of medical science. They offered advantages over Humans in that they could be programmed with massive amounts of information, none of which would be forgotten, making them extremely cost-effective. Meddroids, as they were known, could store detailed records on hundreds of patients, in addition to exhaustive information on diseases, wounds, and infirmities. Medical droids could analyze wounds or diseases and automatically determine severity of injury, necessary medication, and possible side-effects; all by utilizing sensors and extensive databanks. The emotional detachment of these medical droids was both a blessing and a curse—an advantage because droids did not let emotions interfere with their task, but a disadvantage in that patients could often feel alienated from an impersonal machine. These droids could also operate on patients, using built-in tool extensions and surgical implements. These arm extensions were often modular, allowing rapid change from one medical specialization to another (e.g. from neurosurgery to pediatrics). Because of the high costs associated with comprehensive meddroids, some model lines (such as the DD-13 line or FX-7 models) were not as sophisticated and were usually used as assistants. These medical assistant droids offered some independent functionality but were meant to be used in cooperation with dedicated medical droids, or with organic physicians.
Droids were also used in piloting roles, both directly and indirectly. Some were used for atmospheric flight, while others were used for interstellar navigation. Droids were well-suited for piloting roles for several reasons: they could be programmed with detailed schematics of a ship, they would not panic when under enemy fire, they could maintain tight formations and execute precision attack plans, and, because of their close integration with the ship's computers, they could monitor and repair damage to the ship far more effectively than a Human. Because of their expendability, droid pilots did not require escape pods or other life support systems, saving cost and complexity on the ships they flew.
Droids that were used to handle diplomatic affairs, and aid in translation between various languages, were known as protocol droids. Like medical droids, protocol droids utilized massive databanks, being programmed with thousands of different languages and dialects. Protocol droids were equipped with aural sensors, to receive audio information, and processing units, to analyze and apply necessary programming. Because of their close integration with sentients, protocol droids were often given in-depth personality matrices, allowing for a variety of different personalities and behaviors through a process called metaprogramming.
Droids were used in exploration and scouting roles as well, providing a cheap yet effective mobile sensor platform. Probe droids, often launched by the thousands, would use a one-shot propulsion system to reach the targeted area. Upon arrival, these droids would analyze the area with their powerful sensor arrays; sending the results of the scan back to the droid's creator. Droids of this type were used in many roles: military reconnaissance, deep space exploration, and mineral prospecting (primarily in asteroid fields). Other models were atmospheric-bound, relying on repulsorlift technology to move rapidly and traverse height differentials. Most scout droids carried a similar core loadout—a multiple-spectrum photoreceptor, a magnetic imaging device, a thermal imager, and signals transmission equipment. Some models featured built-in weaponry, such as a blaster, or expansion slots that could be used for a variety of additional sensors or weapons. Some droids also included a self-destruct mechanism to prevent acquisition by others. Because of their clearly defined role and the need to keep the cost per unit down, probe droids were given inexpensive processing units and relatively "dumb" A.I. This resulted in a lack of flexibility and systemic errors when confronted with unknown circumstances not outlined in the computer's parameters. These drawbacks aside, probe droids were very effective in their native role: providing inexpensive but broad sensor capability, regardless of climate, radiation levels, or hostile presence.
In addition to the primary roles outlined above, droids served in a myriad of other, more specialized functions:
- Administrative droids functioned as secretaries and assistants.
- Construction droids were used for both building projects and for building demolition.
- Espionage droids were used as spies or saboteurs behind enemy lines.
- Housekeeping specialist droids were used for the upkeep of homes.
- Human replica droids were used to impersonate Human beings in almost every way.
- Labor droids were used for menial labor, usually being equipped with only a rudimentary processor.
- Librarian droids were used for data storage and processing.
- Maintenance droids were used to monitor, clean, and maintain systems.
- Mining droids were used to conduct mining operations without the need for manual labor.
- Nanny droids were used to protect/babysit children.
- Navigation droids were used as guides.
- Tracker droids were used as spies and for prey searching.
- Security droids were used to protect houses and property.
- Service droids were used as waiters and chefs in public areas.
- Slicer droids were used to slice into computer systems.
- Training droids were used for training and honing skills like lightsaber combat.
- "For a droid, a space battle is largely a matter of loud noise and having humans order you out of their way."
Droids were typically treated as property. More advanced droids sometimes received proportionally more respect. Some protested the status of droids as slavery. This was a contentious issue, owing in part to the difficulty of assessing levels of artificial intelligence, and determining which droids if any could be considered properly sentient. Although emancipation of droids was a radical concept, some opposed memory wipes except for very simple droids.
The Naboo considered higher level droids equal as fellow sentients. Under the Galactic Empire, no laws protected droids from abuse and those who showed them respect were looked upon as strange. During the Yuuzhan Vong War (25 ABY–29 ABY), droids were targeted for destruction by the technology-hating Yuuzhan Vong invaders who saw them as abominations.
During the Clone Wars, general dislike for droids was spoken of between clones and their generals, which would regular use such slang as "clankers" or "tinnies" to refer to them.
Yperio Baobab and droid languages
The father of modern droid language was widely held to be Yperio Baobab, whose Bab-Prime revolutionized robotic communication in 200 BBY. The following is a brief chronological list of other droid languages, previous and subsequent.
Bab-Prime was responsible, at least in part, for the droid tendency to develop a personality if not given frequent memory wipes. A hapless employee of the Baobab Merchant Fleet, in an attempt to create a new Bab-Prime algorithm, actually created a personality virus that ran rampant through the galaxy's droid population, exacerbating what was apparently an existing problem. Since then, administering memory wipes to droids became commonplace.
Behind the scenes
The word droid is derived from android which means "man-like." Of course the term is erroneously used for "second degree" droids that have nothing common with humanoids. Droid is the exclusive name for every robotic entity in Star Wars. The name "robot" appears only in primitive (Pre-Republic era) droids. However, C-3PO and R2-D2 were referred to as "robots" on one occasion in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
Droids' legal rights are often a fiercely debated topic among fans.[source?]
In one television documentary, George Lucas said that C-3PO--and thus by extension all droids--had no soul.[source?]
Early Star Wars Legends material sometimes spelled droid with an apostrophe ('droid), short for android.
George Lucas holds a trademark on the term "droid." The miniature 'mech combat wargame BattleTech was originally released under the name BattleDroids, but was renamed due to trademark issues with Lucasfilm.
Pixar Animation Studios' film The Incredibles (2004) contains a reference to Lucasfilm's droid with the large weapon of destruction, the Omnidroid; an apparently unrelated killer droid of the same name also appears in Star Wars Galaxies. The credits of the film give a nod to Lucasfilm.
- For some viewers that feeling lasts through the closing credits, where a notice that the term "Omnidroid" was used by permission of Lucasfilm Ltd. has prompted some fans to speculate that The Incredibles offers a sneak peak at a character from the next Star Wars film.
- "No. No, no, no," Bird [Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles] says with a laugh, when asked if the secret weapon has a secret of its own. "I like that they think that, but it's more the term 'droid' is Lucas and we made the term Omnidroid (and then got the OK as a courtesy). So, no, there's no sneak. But God bless those fans. They're crazy."
The term "Droid" has been licensed by Verizon Wireless for their line of smartphones based on the Android operating system. Motorola's late-2009 Google Android-based cell phone is called the Droid and this line of phone has been expanded to include other Android-based phones released under Verizon. The term is used under license from Lucasfilm.