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 pixellated, often tinted, and frequently has a grid laid over everything. 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.
The readout almost always contains jokes. In comedy they will be blatant jokes such as the robot identifying a person as a fat ugly slob or something, while in serious efforts the jokes are usually hidden little shout outs.
In reality, of course, it would be absolutely pointless for all this information to come up on the screen. The only one who it could be written there for is the robot itself, but 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? (Aside: the question of how much of our internal life is "visualised", how much is "abstracted", and the affect this has on human nature is the subject of a great many philosophical thought experiments involving robots. This trope is arguably a Translation Convention to show the robot's state of mind, much like subtitles.)
Probably started with Westworld (Yul Brynner's Gunslinger robot) and The Terminator. Often the graphics used will seem exceptionally low-quality for a futuristic robot. The Terminator actually pulled up 6502 assembly source code from an Apple II magazine. (See also Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future.)
This trope is sometimes used for living, organic characters as a visual gag. It suggests that whatever activity they are performing, they are doing so in a robotic, slavish manner. Example: Homer Simpson judging potential men for Selma in an early episode of The Simpsons.
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. Justified in that a human cyborg (plausibly) can't directly download digital data into his brain.
Alternatively, a character connected to a robot drone via a cyber datalink will be able to see through the sensors of the drone.
It often accompanies a character using Robo Speak.
Anime & Manga
- In Mahou Sensei Negima, 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 anime movies and 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.
- 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 no Naku Koro ni 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).
Films -- Animation
- 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 menu on the DVD.
- Nine has a few shots through the point of view of the Fabrication Machine, and its creation known as the Seamstress.
Films -- Live-Action
- Used in the Transformers film series, for the brief segment near the beginning when we see Blackout (a Decepticon) looking at Epps (a human military officer).
- In addition to sporting Apple II assembly code, the RoboCam in 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, 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 has the T-800's original RoboCam (though to show the T-850 is a bit more advanced, there are Mac OS commands along with Apple II ones), but gave T-X a high-tech blue vision.
- 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.
- 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. Also, while they're technically not robots, the views from inside the various suits of armor in the series invoke this trope.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Red Dwarf:
- "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 Felix Sapiens, therefore not human; Rimmer is a former-human, therefore not human; Lister is "barely human", so "Oh, what the hell".
- Also occurs when Kryten is injured in "Terrorform"; his vision ranges from reporting "Mauve Alert" to playing relaxing music to calm himself down.
- An old-style Cylon's POV in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined: 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.
- Spaced gives a Shout-Out to RoboCop, a big, long, beat-for-beat one, that replicated the complete Introduction of RoboCop sequence... for a Battle Bot.
- 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 Is, and the camera readout was mostly intended for use by people inside the station, who might find such info useful.
- Usually in Bibleman when they use a POV shot from the heroes' perspective.
- K9, the series, features many scenes from K9's POV, with various stat blocks popping up.
- 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".
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.)
- 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 Egg and Shout-Out text.
- 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.
- Junkman of the The Incredible Crash Dummies has one of these complete with animal identification and a to do list.
- The Simpsons: when Homer is given the task of finding a suitor for Selma he sees the candidates through a Robo Cam that displays their Pros and Cons.
- 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.
- The ASM text is real, though, if slow.