In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, wow does the T-1000 sense things? It's made of mimetic poly alloy; however, does it have a retinal scan camera like the T-X or T-800, or is just molecules that allow it to see what it does?

In other words: let's say it is made out of nanobots. Would a group of these nanobots provide the capability of sight? Kind of like humans with cells that make up the brain?

I have always wondered whether James Cameron explained this on a special edition or if the topic was left up for insight from Terminator fans. From what I get from the whole mimetic poly alloy and some of the extra scenes, it seems to feel its way out to get information. Of course, it's very much not blind! Thoughts?


During the course of the film it is clear that the T-1000 is using its eyes. It turns its head towards those it chases, it gazes, and to me, this stands to reason. I believe that John Q gets it half right. That each nano particle is able to sense at least light if not also being able to tell the wavelength of that light.

However, without a means to focus the light, it would be like a primitive organism covered in light-sensing skin and only able to tell what direction light is coming from, not being able to make an image of it.

So I suspect that the mimic eyes actually function as eyes should. They may or may not have lenses within (We do see it making transparent materials in the movie), as the important part of a camera that can resolve an image is to pass the light through an aperture. The smaller the aperture the dimmer the light but the less of the world is being exposed to one sensing section of cells at a time. The sweep of the back of the eye of that small section of light is what enables eyes to create an image rather than to just sense color around them.

This accounts for the T-1000's use of its head and eyes as a person would. Because otherwise, it would only be able to have a vague sense of the light and color around it.

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    Maybe it only appears to have (and use) eyes to mimic humans? Part of the terminator's initial objective is to appear human. – DarkHeart Nov 3 '12 at 5:47
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    @DarkHeart which only puts us back at square one. The nanobots would not be able to 'see' like a human can. They are many times smaller than cells and single-celled organisms haven't figured that trick out, and they've had 4 billion years to do it. The reason is highly-directional sight requires physical depth and atomic resolution that the nanobots just can't have without being so large that they are more powder than liquid appearing. – DampeS8N Nov 3 '12 at 8:55
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    There are moments on the movie where the rebuilding or shapeshifting T-1000 hasn't eyes at the moment but still seems to see. – Bardo Aug 8 '14 at 11:57
  • I've read research on lens-less networked, single-pixel devices generating decent imagery through software. And the T-1000 doesn't seem to lack for processing power. – John O Aug 8 '14 at 18:29
  • @JohnO This? nature.com/articles/ncomms7225 ? Because: A) I wrote this answer 3 years before it was published (and you wrote your response a year before it was, interesting). B) it paints the target with a bright projected pattern. C) the detection unit has complexity and thickness beyond a nano-scale that would still be better housed in eyes than flat on the skin. That said, D) a continuation of this technique possibly could result in the T-1000 being able to see. Too bad in the T-1000 timeline Judgement Day happened in 1997. 18 years before this research. – DampeS8N Feb 1 '18 at 3:45

I think that he not only see but could also smell using whole body - look at this creepy deleted scene

where he's scaning John room, he is doing it in such unnatural way, that it have to be in film script or in director vision. I'm not sure if he is using his hands here to see, smell, echolocate or touch. But this whole scene is contributed to goal of showing he's mental and "physiological" functioning.

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This is briefly described in the official James Cameron fan site FAQ:

The deleted scene of T-1000 searching John's room was specifically shot to show the audience that T-1000 doesn't see but that he senses, like an insect or Alien. He carefully touches and massages everything with the tips of his fingers. "Touch" is a key word here - it's the same way T-1000 samples objects.

Novelization: "(T-1000) took in the details of the neighborhood. It wasn't just his eyes he was seeing with. His entire body registered the environment in a dozen subtle ways"

"It didn't need lights. It could sense the molecular structure of things by touch"

There's no distinction in T-1000's form - same drop or part can become a piece of leg, or an ear, nose or knee - doesn't matter

Novelization: "Sirens reached its auditory sensors, which could have been formed anywhere on its body (since every molecule had the genetic blueprints for all needed parts programmed into them), but were now in shape of human ears"

It appears that the T-1000 doesn't see at all, it merely "senses".

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  • Great answer. Well referenced from multiple sources. You have my +1 – Valorum Jul 26 '15 at 11:48

All the nanobots are probably capable of rudimentary vision. They may only have a few pixels of resolution, but networked together this would allow for a very high-resolution composite image to be generated. It wouldn't even necessarily have to have specific nanobots assigned to imaging duty, I suspect that any of them located on the exterior surface would do so, giving the T-1000 a complex panoramic view.

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I suspect that he doesn't see, he uses probably a sonar-like perception system... much more simple and precise to develop than a complex visual system.

The fact that he moves his head and seems to stare at objects is no doubt part of it's programming, as it has to disguise itself as a human.

However, a sonar system would be far simpler to develop on a nanobot colony than any complex sight system.

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  • perhaps a combination of SONAR/LIDAR/RADAR for tracking of targets through solid objects, over greater distances, etc. – Monty129 Aug 8 '14 at 19:53
  • While watching this movie yet again, this would be a good guess, but I am not sure if it solely true. If it was just on sonar, how would the T-1000 be able to locate things that are NOT moving, in the case of it moving over objects and locating John Connor's pics in a safe, within his bedroom wall? – Wanting Answers Dec 12 '14 at 2:50
  • Moving its head while using sonar would allow it to pick up non-moving objects. Remember relativity. Object A moving compared to Object B at a standstill is the same as Object A not moving and object B moving, in a different frame of reference. The movement still matters. – user16696 Jul 26 '15 at 3:32

ok ur not understanding how nanobots work. Nanobots are not digital, they are "organic" analog computers. You can use them to process digital, but it doesn't do it in the same way. They work by using their electrons in many different manners by affecting the orbit of the electrons and protons which affect the surrounding environment and can switch off and on certain features. There is no "on, off" switch. They work by manipulating their own electromagnetic flow to get things done. Kinda like putting a dam in a river to see the water rise, etc, or using one of those directed energy weapons to lift shit off the ground. What the t-1000 sees is probably clearer and less fuzzy than our own vision, as it can augment it's own vision to basically see anything, even binocular perhaps even telescope vision. Obviously he would have the ability to see many different wavelengths of light, including infrared and of course he could use sonar imaging.

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  • This doesn't answer the question of how the T-1000 is seeing. You should also site where your information on nanobots is coming from, because as I understand it, nanobots is sort of an all encompasing term that can mean microscopic machines that function similar to biological cells, or self replicating microscopic robots that can form complex structures (sort of like Legos or Tinker Toys). – Monty129 Aug 8 '14 at 19:52
  • i wasn't really commenting on HOW it sees. But you all seem to think there are "pixels of resolution' in his vision. There'd be no need. It can see pristine, crystal clear images. It just doesn't experience them, as of course, the t-1000 is a machine. – mistermister Aug 16 '14 at 14:43

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