Dr. Morbius creates Robbie after having his intellectual capacity doubled by the Krell machines. The robot is a man-sized, highly capable domestic servant receiving orders aurally, and responding as needed with a synthesized voice of his own.
Robbie exits the cockpit of his vehicle.
Robbie invites the men inside.
Robbie first appears steering a special vehicle to pick up the officers. It is specially built for him, accommodating his inability to sit down. From this position, he can wirelessly maneuver the vehicle, and even turn his head around to address passengers.
Robbie fires Adams’ sidearm.
Despite his having only two wide, flat fingers on each hand, he is able to grasp and manipulate objects as a human would. To demonstrate this, Morbius has him aim and fire Commander Adams’ weapon at a nearby tree. How he pulled the trigger is something of an unanswered question since his hands are hidden from view as he fires, but he does so all the same. This makes him quite useful as an interface, since he is able to use any of the devices already in the environment. Additionally, should he become unavailable, humans can carry on in his absence.
Alta thanks Robbie for offering to make her a new dress.
Given that he must interact with humans, who have social needs, his stature helps ingratiate him. In one scene Alta wishes to express her gratitude for his promise of a new dress, and she gives him a hug. Though he does not hug back, she still smiles through and after the expression. Had he been less anthropometric, she would have had to express her thanks in some other way that was less pleasant to her.
Robbie warms the coffee for Alta and Farman.
In addition to being physically suited for human interaction, he is quite socially aware and able to anticipate basic human needs. In one scene, as Lt. Farman walks with Alta towards a cold pot of coffee, without having been asked, Robbie reaches down to press a button that warms the coffee by the time the two of them arrive. He also knows to leave immediately afterwards to give the two some privacy.
Despite these human-like qualities, some of his inhuman qualities make him useful, too. He is shown to be incredibly strong. He is tireless. He can synthesize any material he tastes.
With eyes behind his head, Robbie shoos a pesky monkey.
He even has eyes in the back of his head, or a 360-degree field of vision for surveillance of his surroundings. In one charming scene he combines this observation with small nonlethal lasers to shoo away a pesky monkey trying to steal fruit behind his back.
Morbius shows Robbie’s “sub-electronic dilemma” when asked to harm a human.
Addressing safety concerns, Robbie is built to obey Asimov’s first law of robotics. After having his creator instruct him to point a weapon at Adams, and aim right between the eyes and fire, Robbie’s servos begin to click and whir noisily. His dome glows a pinkish-red as blue sparks leap across it. Morbius explains, “He’s helpless. Locked in a sub-electronic dilemma between my direct orders and his basic inhibitions against harming rational beings.” When the command is canceled, the sparks stop immediately and the red fades over a few seconds.
This failsafe seems quite serious, as Dr. Morbius explains that if he were to allow the state to continue, that Robbie would blow every circuit in his body. Since the fault of such a state is with the one issuing the command and not Robbie, it seems a strange design. It would be like having your email server shut down because someone is trying to send an email infected with a virus. It would make much more sense for Robbie to simply disregard the instruction and politely explain why.