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What's the word for this?

Toby Frost

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Jan 22, 2008
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A robot character is pursuing someone who has slipped into a crowd. The robot finds it difficult to process all the faces and noise in the crowd at once and is slightly overwhelmed by the data. The word I'm looking for isn't "information" or "stimuli" but is something like that. Any thoughts anyone?
 

Luiglin

by day Stuart Orford by night Dark Lord's scribe
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"Information overload" or "data overload". To be honest, if something goes wrong in my real world job I tend to fall back on trusted swear words.
 

Plucky Novice

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I'm not sure if you're trying to describe the data or what's happening to the robot.

You might say the robot has reached sensory saturation and is unable to assimilate the data quickly enough to find the person. A wall or veil of data.
 

Toby Frost

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The phrase I'm looking for might be something like "sensory overload". Which does sound as if its head is about to explode, but I've heard real people use it too, so I think I'll go with that.
 

sknox

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A lot is going to depend on your character's voice here. Does he talk more like Robbie the Robot or more like Daneel Olivaw? That's going to condition the choice of words. Or, I guess, it would depend on the narrative voice, if in third person. Anyways.

The word "noise" is pretty apt here, given that computer folk speak of signal-to-noise ratios. But the terminology can be more metaphorical and lyrical--again, depending on voice. Or, as a third route, describe the robot's reactions rather than trying to characterize them. The robot stumbled to a stop. His eyes dimmed as he tried to process the sudden onslaught of data--not only the sights and sounds, but the surge of data coming by way of radio, microwave, and infrared.

Sometimes it's best to use one word instead of ten, but other times ten words do it better.
 

dannymcg

"It places the lotion in the basket"
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A robot character is pursuing someone who has slipped into a crowd. The robot finds it difficult to process all the faces and noise in the crowd at once and is slightly overwhelmed by the data. The word I'm looking for isn't "information" or "stimuli" but is something like that. Any thoughts anyone?
Would that happen?
It didn't affect Arnie when he was searching the noir nightclub for Sarah Connor
 

Cat's Cradle

Time, now, to read...
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How about a made-up word: cacophormation. (A combo of cacophony and information.) Might give the passage a nice, futuristic feel.
 

Toby Frost

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I'm not sure it would happen to a sufficiently advanced robot. It does happen to me when I go into Tesco's sometimes.
 

tinkerdan

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I would think that it might be more a scan and frame rate problem and though it likely would be able to buffer a lot of that information and put it into a sub-process there might still end up being a buffer overload. That would depend on how quickly it could determine irrelevant incoming data that it could immediately toss out and the size of the buffer.

Some of our instruments are meant to gather large blocks of data in milliseconds and there are actual commands in firmware that allow it to ignore or delay specific processes when there are multiple events occurring so that it they can collect and process and make determinations about as many of those events as possible and they do sometimes miss data(not often) and it becomes difficult to tell whether they might have--at that point--missed a vital piece of data or just one that would have been tossed out anyway. Because the data is often quite large it is often the buffer size and the time to process that become limiting factors.
 

Ihe

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A good point was brought up: if they have the tech to build a fully-functioning robot, buffering shouldn't be a problem, unless the robot is malf7nctioning/missing parts/sabotaged somehow. Just how many faces and types of noise would give a machine-brain pause? A crowd of several hundred shouldnt pose a fraction of an issue imo.
 

LukeLee

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Aug 15, 2019
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I’d go with something related to bandwidth overload. Depends on context but too much input all at once would cause some level of drop out and then how the robot copes/perceives with this will depend on level of advancement as mentioned by other posters.
 
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