CreativeReview

The robots are coming!

A working replica of UK's first robot at the robots exhibition
A working replica of UK’s first robot, all images © The Board of Trusties of the Science Museum

Technology is allowing us to get ever nearer to replicating the mechanics of the human body, bringing to fruition an ambition and desire that is centuries old. Next month, the Science Museum in London opens Robots, its major 2017 show, which will explore how this fascination has been realised over time.

Technology is allowing us to get ever nearer to replicating the mechanics of the human body, bringing to fruition an ambition and desire that is centuries old.

While the word ‘robot’ conjures images of 1950s sci-fi, it originated in Czech writer Karel Čapek’s 1920 play, Rossumovi Univerzální Roboti (Rossum’s Universal Robots) as a term for ‘forced labour’. With the origins of the word in mind, it’s clear that robotics and AI have the potential to be emotive subjects, too – how, what and why humans create in this field remains a contentious issue.

With much to stimulate this kind of discussion, the Science Museum will have a wide range of actual robots on show, of course. From a 16th-century manikin, to Eric (1928), Cygan (1957, left) and a sleek-looking Nao V5 Evolution (2016),Robots looks set to be an intriguing study of humanity’s desire to remake itself.


Robots is at the Science Museum, London from February 8 until September 3.

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