(informal) verb: to scurry noun: a scurrying movement or sound.

In Red dwarf, the scutters are a pair1 of utility robots that scoot around the ship on wheels and look a bit like anglepoise lamps - a heavy base and a long thin neck ending in a head/hand.

The term has been used to describe kinds of web-crawling software, but as robotics becomes more important in the real world, this class of robot becomes more interesting, if we can define what exactly a scutter is. Here is my take on it:

  • Scutters are mobile robots, either autonomous units or untethered remotes.
  • Scutters are shorter than people. If they don't scuttle, they're not scutters.
  • Scutters are not human-shaped. Those are androids.
  • Scutters are utility robots. They do stuff. A scutter may have a specific purpose or be a general utility, but an entertainment droid or spy droid/observation platform is not a scutter.
  • Scutters need not be particularly smart, just smart enough to move themselves around and perform their tasks. Think animal-equivalent not human-equivalent.

So are there any scutters today? By that definition, an aibo isn't a scutter (it is for entertainment), and neither is factory welding arm (not mobile, and most of them are too large), but a roomba is a definite scutter. I think we'll be seeing lots of scutters in the future.

Look out for small scuttering droids in the first season of Farscape.

1) lj has pointed out that there were probably loads of scutters on the huge ship Red Dwarf. We only ever saw two at a time because of the limitations of the BBC's props department.

CloudStrife informs me that Scutter (generally pronounced "shcuther") is an adjective in common use in Ireland generally used to imply extreme unpleasantness, usually suggesting similarity to vomit or diarrhoea. Oh dear.

Scut"ter (?), v. i. [Cf. Scuttle, v. i.]

To run quickly; to scurry; to scuttle. [Prov. Eng.]

A mangy little jackal . . . cocked up his ears and tail, and scuttered across the shallows.


© Webster 1913

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