Originating in Philip K Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the Voight-Kampff machine or device (spelled Voigt-Kampff in the book) also appeared in the book's screen adaptation, the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner.
The Voight-Kampff is a polygraph-like machine used by the LAPD's Blade Runners to assist in the testing of an individual to see if they are a replicant or not. It measures bodily functions such as Respiration, heart rate and eye movement in response to emotionally provocative questions.
Use of the machine
In the film two replicants take the test: Leon (played by Brion James) and Rachael (played by Sean Young). In Blade Runner, Deckard tells Tyrell that it usually takes 20 to 30 cross-referenced questions to distinguish a replicant. With Rachael it takes more than a hundred. Tyrell said Rachael was "special."
Description from the original 1982 Blade Runner presskit:
- A very advanced form of lie detector that measures contractions of the iris muscle and the presence of invisible airborne particles emitted from the body. The bellows were designed for the latter function and give the machine the menacing air of a sinister insect. The VK is used primarily by Blade Runners to determine if a suspect is truly human by measuring the degree of his empathic response through carefully worded questions and statements.
The Voight-Kampff machine is perhaps analogous to (and may have been partly inspired by) Alan Turing's work which propounded an artificial intelligence test – to see if a computer could convince a human (by answering set questions, etc.) that it was another human. The term Turing test was popularised by science fiction but was not used until years after Turing's death.
- Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul Sammon (Orion, 2004) ISBN 0752807404
- Retrofitting Blade Runner: Issues in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" and Philip K. Dick's "Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Judith Kerman (Popular Press, 2003) ISBN 0879725109
- Voight-Kampff entry - Official Blade Runner online magazine
- Excerpt describing the machine from "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"