The Computer With Attitude

"Accessing Sally...."


The search for the intelligent computer, on this world at least, continues. But what do we mean by intelligent? It has to be human like. It must evolve, communicate, be original, solve new problems and ultimately become sentient. We need a machine we can talk to and relate to on a personal basis. One that understands slang, tone of voice, context and that adapts to suit its users. It must perform a variety of tasks and be aware of all the significant events that go on around it. On Mobius there exists such a thing; NICOLE!

( NICOLE uses a female simulation for interface so I will refer to her as a "she" rather than an "it"..)

"Way past NICOLE!"
Sonic The Hedgehog

Sensory Capabilities:

For NICOLE one of the most important things is her ability to find out about events going on around her. In order to do this NICOLE must have some kind of mechanism to take in all sorts of data. As far as I can gather from the cartoons NICOLE is able to receive data about objects several metres away. She can determine colour, chemical composition, heat, radiation and can also scan inside living organisms. I will give my views on how this could be accomplished.

The simplest explanation for NICOLE's abilities is that she has a few light sensors placed around her casing. There are however a few problems associated with this theory. Since NICOLE spends most of her time either in Sally's hand or in her boot or jacket pocket, and in these positions she can still scan areas, another system has to be found. She could use a radiation based probe that could scan a few metres but this is also impractical. This system may be only useful for x-rays. A system needs to be found that can take in data relating to a particular area regardless of how many objects obscure her 'line of sight'. I have only one explanation of how this could be possible.

NICOLE sends out tiny gravitational waves and then measures the distortion with a delicate matrix of L.A.S.E.Rs inside her. The beams of light will be altered slightly by the distorted space around them. From listening to the echoes from objects NICOLE can determine everything about them. The gravitational waves, which are very small, could be produced by two tiny rods of super dense material that are rotated round each other. A charge could be passed through them to increase their efficiency. The rods would rotate at a regular speed so the L.A.S.E.R matrix could ignore the regular pulses and concentrate on the echoes only. Better still a set of rods of a different polarization could cancel out this effect in a very small area then deactivate between pulses to allow the echoes in. This would mean that the primary sensors could remain in motion.

NICOLE is able to detect sound and this is probably done by a multitude of sound sensors positioned around her shell. The more sensors the easier it is to judge the distance of the objects and 'hear' them correctly. NICOLE will rely the most on these sensors as they give so many details about objects, a temperature reader for instance, is probably not necessary.

For detailed analysis on the molecular properties of objects NICOLE almost certainly had some sort of sensor pad that must come in to physical contact with it to be effective. This may be gravitationally based or radiation based. It may however be totally different involving millions of tiny sensors that work rather like our skin and take tiny samples in order to find out minute details.

"Sonic, I need to go to the bathroom, real bad!"
Miles (Tails) Prower

Authors note: The expression on Sonic's face when Tails says this betrays the fact that if the scene did not change quickly, he would probably use some expletives!

Power And Protection:

In order for her to function NICOLE requires a large, steady output of power. An on board fusion reactor could do this but NICOLE is far to small for a piece of technology like this. Incidentally it is possible that Mobius had still not cracked fusion power. A battery as we know it would not produce nearly enough power for her. She certainly cannot gain her power from any conventional methods involving chemicals. Here is my theory for NICOLE's power pack.

If certain metals are cooled enough then they become superconductors. I mean below -100 *c. If you put in an electrical charge, provided it remains cold enough, it will remain in there for ages. If a very strong electrical charge is passed into it and trapped then it could be used as a power pack. If the power pack was well insulated it could hold its charge for millions of years. This seems rational.

NICOLE is, no matter how careful Sally may be, going to be exposed to lots of force. She may be dropped, or fired at in a combat situation. The metal that coats NICOLE is probably titanium or of a diamond based element. These have excellent heat conducting properties and are able to withstand incredible punishment before finally giving up. NICOLE's internal systems are described later on this page. NICOLE may be equipped with some kind of inertial dampener that would reduce the force of impacts. This could work in a number of ways. Firstly, if NICOLE senses an impact all her internal systems will simultaneously jump a few manometers away from the area of force causing it to be transferred thought her. As I said and will say, many of NICOLE's systems may require the manipulation of gravity. She could produce a field around her and use this to channel the force of the impact or she could make her self heavier so as not to be knocked about.

However in the cartoons I never heard any mention of gravity based inertial dampeners! Most of the time NICOLE does not have to worry too much about problems like this as she normally finds a nice home in Sally's boot! (Talk about living in style!)

"I suggested he should capture Robotnick, but I was only joking!"

Processor and Personality

The technology of the processor NICOLE possesses is truly amazing. NICOLE is so amazingly intelligent for an A.I that to program her from scratch would be impossible. Before I talk about how she came to be I will first take the best conjecture I can about what technology the processor uses. I am basically guessing here but not without reason. First I will decide what it cannot be.

It cannot be organic otherwise there is the problem of keeping the living cells alive. This technology demands a lot more than simple copper tracked circuit boards. A faster way of processing information is through light based fibre optics. I assume that it is possible , on Mobius at least, to produce a completely light based computer. This could be smaller but not small enough. Think of the average Human or Mobian brain. It takes up a fair bit of space and NICOLE has to do all the things it does and more. So perhaps NICOLE uses a chemical system. Now we are getting closer.

By manipulating thousands of chemical/electric reactions the right pattern for intelligence can be reached. This is how the brain works.

Note:( For those of the religious type who believe the human mind to be much more than highly complex chemical reactions, who believe in the existence of a soul and spiritual side) NICOLE as far as I can understand dispite having all the physical and mental properties of intelligence is not sentient. One can then conclude that no computer could ever be alive because they do not posses a soul. My personal opinion lies in the middle.

NICOLE therefore must have a very advanced chemically based system. She probably consists of many neural net processors each only a few molecules across. Since she works on a molecular scale it is easy for her to adapt her processors to new things and find better ways of executing procedures. To change a few atoms may be easier than changing an entire circuit board. Now back to what I was saying about how difficult it is to code an A.I. Those of you who have read my page on Robotocization will find some of this familiar.

In order for a computer like NICOLE to function she must be able to learn. But how do you teach a machine all the little silly common sense rules about how to test and log variables? You cannot! There are billions of them and to plod through each one and log them would be absolutely stupid! The solution is quite simply to design a machine to learn about Humans/Mobians and their language and how to control all its features by trial and error. Exactly the same as a human baby. After years in this learning state it may be possible to communicate with the intelligence. Before the thing becomes sentient or too advanced it must be force taught some ground rules that it cannot change. This is where asimov's laws for robots come in. I have modified them slightly.

The machine must never kill another sentient. The machine must never observe a sentient being killed without trying to help. The machine can never commit any act considered a crime or offense. The machine must obey a sentient command unless the user sentient says otherwise.

These laws can be broken in order to save a sentient's life or not to commit an offense. For instance, Sally could not order NICOLE to kill Sonic (sometimes I bet she wishes she could!). If Sally was injured and Sonic ordered her not to help NICOLE would have no choice but to try and come to her aid. If Tails tried to mess up NICOLE and Sally had given orders that he should not be permitted access he would not be allowed in. However there are a load of paradoxes that arise from these rules and I do not intend to ever pursue otherwise I would need a new page!

NICOLE may have some kind of suppresser inside her that prevents her from ever becoming sentient. If she did she would have to be treated with the same rights as any other sentient. This could make her for the most part utterly useless.

"SALLY! You have not washed today and you smell! Please move me to your boot pocket!" This is perhaps a little exaggerated!

NICOLE also has behavioral inhibitors that prevent certain things. "You really are a bitch Bunnie!" No expletives or insults.

"Yes Tails, accessing requested picture of Sally now!" Will not release personnel information without higher authority or consent.

"I do not know what is wrong with me!"(Sally) "You are pregnant!"(NICOLE). Will not make known important personnel events without consent.

For the last rule NICOLE will have to refer to a pre-made list and a custom list that she builds up over time. NICOLE must also prevent damage to herself except of course if she had to sacrifice her life to save Sally's for instance. If you add all this together then you can see what NICOLE is. NICOLE learns by making connections between events and objects and then putting them into her processor. Since all this information would take up a huge amount of space if just stored it probably circulates round the system gradually increasing efficiency. NICOLE stores all reference files in a standard chemical based hard drive. In this way she is more like a computer.

"I'm afraid it's awfully complicated!"


This probably will seem really simple unless you give it a lot of thought. Obviously the primary method with which NICOLE communicates with Sally and co. is with an external speaker. There is nothing particularly cool about this. Neither is there anything really amazing about the small high resolution screen positioned by her top end. But what about the holographic images that she displays. Now there is an area of interest.

Just how does she make an image float in mid air. How would we do it on Earth? Unless the entire area the image is displayed in is on top of a screen we cannot have a hologram. We cannot project light into thin air. So how have the Mobians accomplished this? Well the first and most obvious explanation is that NICOLE produces a large three dimensional cube of a transparent substance and then activates small colour cells inside it to produce the image. This however would be highly improbable.

Laser beams show up when the air is dense meaning a laser system could display the image in a smoke filled room. This is also very idiotic. The conclusion I have come up with sounds rather far fetched but at least it is better than the others. We see because light reflects off surfaces. NICOLE's holographic projector must be able to produce gravitational fields that somehow bend small rays of light so the illusion is given of an object suspended. Of course if the rays of light were small enough this would not require too much power. The laws of physics on Mobius may be slightly different to those on Earth. (I do not think the animators had this sort of thing in mind when they drew NICOLE!)

I think I am going to be sick!

Authors note: There is a misconception about the French fox. He is not an complete and utter prat! Coward yes, immature maybe, evil no! Can you see Antoine beating up anyone in an act of spite? I cannot. I think Antoine is the way he is because of some terrible accident early in his life. Maybe his tail got blown off and the shock damaged him! He has his good points too. He can speak fluent French, he does offer his help when he is needed and tries in missions to the best of his ability. I think perhaps the others push him just a bit too hard. I also find Sonic's attitude towards him unacceptable. Have you ever noticed how Sonic constantly calls him names and sometimes bullies him? Maybe the blue guy is not as cool as he is made out to be! Antoine may sometimes seem arrogant and egotistic but so is Sonic, and everyone loves him! I beg you all out there to give Antoine a second chance! Please! If you already agree then I thank you!

IF,THEN, intelligence

So what exactly is it that makes NICOLE tick? To help comprehension take the above phrase quoted by Antoine and then see what NICOLE would make of it. The actual situation is that Sonic and Sally are engaging in a very passionate kissing session infront of about 20 other Knothole residents! Antoine reacts by saying he feels sick. Now we all know that in this situation Antoine was referring to the fact, 'he' would rather be kissing Sally! He is not about to vomit violently!

Similarly if NICOLE had suspected that he felt sick then she would probably suggest some treatment. But she recognized this situation. How? Well the whole idea of intelligence is to recognize a situation or a similar situation and then react to it. Everything that NICOLE has learned has been based on simple "If, then" statements. For instance.

IF Sally is in Rotor's workshop and something goes wrong THEN her best course of action is to run like hell! Of course in order for NICOLE to be intelligent billions of these need to be stored. They are probably stored in a super compressed mathematical system that continually circulates around her neural nets. It constantly changes and evolves. When NICOLE heard Antoine's little remark she picked up the tone of voice, the situation and compared it to thousands of the if, thens inside her and finally decided to do absolutely nothing. Antoine could cool off by himself!

But this must seem pretty improbable. Yet this is how the human brain probably works. We use trial and error to search for different situations and then log them in a similar form. However the only difference is the fact our brains are far more complicated than any Earth computer.

Since NICOLE is so small her inner most make up is more complex than the brain itself and it is quite possible that the tiny nano-processors inside her can grow in many different directions. NICOLE's first ever moment in her existence was probably a tiny molecule wide processor surrounded by useable elements. She was designed to do random things and eventually after logging all these she began to become more sophisticated.

Give it a Sonic second!

Authors note: The name Miles Prower is supposed to be a joke. Miles Per Hour, Miles Prower. Get it? The world did not get it!

Diagram of NICOLE

Summary of Systems

Protective CaseProtects NICOLE from potential heat and force hazards
TerminalUsed in a cable based uplink
ScreenDisplays a two dimensional LCD view
Manual Screen AdjustmentLets the user specify brightness, contrast etc.
PivotAllows NIOCLE's case to flip up
Function KeysUsed individually or in combinations in order to perform common tasks
Holographic ProjectorAllows the rendering of floating 3 dimensional images
On/SleepDetermines NICOLE's state from unconscious to fully aware to off
Execute PadAllows execution faster than a vocal command