Recently, the Science Museum in London, Great Britain opened up its gates to a new collection. This presents the Robots exhibition. A unique presentation, it takes a look at past, present, and potentially future such creations.
Robots have been provoking humanity’s imagination ever since they were first mentioned. A popular element in science-fiction works, they seem to be getting closer to stepping down from the pages of a book. Modern robotics seems to be taking leaps and bounds. And unlike in some stories, they are designed to help humans.
The Robots exhibition seems to be pointing our attention to this fact. One of its purposes is to put us face to face with robots. It presents what they were.
A walk through the collection begins with automata. These date back to the 16th to 18th centuries. At the time, the ‘robots’ were mechanical models. They were powered by clockwork and spring mechanisms. The period also introduced the term “automaton”. Some credit it as the source for our well-known “android”.
This collection’s centerpiece is a silver swan. Built in 1773, it has over 2,000 moving parts. Although it still functions, it can only be triggered once a day. This is due to its fragility. But its spectacle is a 30-seconds long pantomime.
The next room of the Robots exhibition brings the viewer into the 20th century. This is a prime example of the change which took place over the centuries. These robots are large, shiny, and seem to be hulking.
It is also a prime example of the change in mentality. Robots no longer performed pretty shows or inoffensive actions. The room contains examples such as Maria. This latter is part of Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic film.
It also presents Cygan or Gygan. This is a bot built in the 1950’s. The 8-foot-tall machine could crush cans. Used as a party trick, it was advertised as having as much strength as “a dozen Samsons”.
This collection also holds Eric. Built in 1928, it has “RUR” emblazoned on it. This is a Czech play from the 1920’s. The term “robot” was first coined based on it.
The following two rooms seem to change the tone. They depart from the robots’ strength. Instead, they focus on their precision, subtlety, and even emotion. These rooms hold examples of more recent robots.
For example, they include Baxter. This is a two-armed bot. It was designed to help people working on assembly lines. Pepper is also present. This is a robot which can “read” emotions. Its purpose is to help in the service industry. It should direct and assist people.
Telenoid was also included. This latter can determine mixed reactions. It is a white, smooth plastic torso. The telepresence bot was built so that people could talk to their loved ones back home. But some reportedly found it quite disturbing as it was sitting there all by its lonesome.
The Robots exhibition includes over 100 robots and automatons. They are representative pieces. And showcase 500 years of robot existence.
Just as their role, the robots are very different. They range from the most basic and simple to highly complex mechanisms. The Robots exhibition opened on February 07. It will be open for visits up until September 3rd. Those wishing to see the silver swan pantomime should check its schedule on the Science Museum website.
And visitors beware. You will be greeted at the entrance by an animatronic baby. Pinned to the wall, it nonetheless reveals its strings. And raises a few questions of its own.
Image Source: Wikimedia