The world of robots has always been a fascinating place. Shown to us through a myriad ofcomic book creations, sci-fi cybermen and movie cyborgs, the robotic progression collected as many sceptical critics as it did captivated fans. We find ourselves wanting to know more about these intricate machines and wondering what would happen if the day came real Artificial Intelligence was born.
The projection of the human/robot collaborative future is somewhat blurred and the invention of the modern robot may seem somewhat recent. The last 50 years has seen a colossal amount of development in Robotics and it incredible to think of how far we have come in that short space of time. However what many of us may not realise is just how far back the use of robotic parts also goes in our human history, with early automaton designs used some 500 years ago.
The Robots exhibition displayed at the Science Museum, London is dedicated to helping us understand our progressive use of Robots throughout these 500 years, with the explanation of the vast developments and discoveries currently taking place in the Robotics field.
Split into 5 significant areas of the development process, the exhibition guides visitors through the full concept to implementation stages with interactive displays and learning zones for each of the key areas.
Some of the areas will produce some nostalgic feelings I’m sure, with fantastic movie originals on display along with posters, toys and books all centred on the robotic theme. My first glimpse of the AI world came in the form of a classic, children’s movie called Short Circuit. The rogue robot character of Number 5 making jokes and defying his military programming seemed like magic to me as a young child. Thinking back now, I can see how movies like this would really have opened our eyes to the possibility of robots coming into our homes, and did so with me.
The real excitement occurs after this however, as the exhibition then sweeps you into the stream of Robotic progression. Along with technological and engineering advancements the areas where robots may prove useful to us are ever expanding and many great examples of these are displayed. In a lot of aspects we are already embracing the use of robots in the world with manufacturing robots a part of modern industry and laboratory robots performing intricate tasks in our science labs. Personal or social robots are also being explored, with call centre robots, learning assistants for children and domestic robots starting to be used in schools and in homes. Medical robots are being produced to assist the elderly with home patient care.
Perhaps the most disturbing area for many of us is how the physical appearance of robots is evolving. The idea of robots having faces seems to stem from the need to make robots more relatable to your everyday person and we now have versions that can mimic expression and look around with very human-like eyes. The main problem we ourselves face is remembering not to attach human emotions and thoughts to the artificial face you are looking at and is gazing back at you. It appears that part of the progression of our robots is to make them act, move and appear more…human.
What we mustn’t forget to do is remind ourselves that human is what they are not. The most modern of robots are capable of learning, but we must remember that this is only possible through the clever programming written by the human engineers. Some robots now communicate with us in our own language, but this language was uploaded along with the voice that speaks to you.
This is but one of the challenges we must work through in order to integrate robots into our culture. We are now at the stage where robots can work to aide us with many key areas of our lives, helping us to create a better future for generations to come. It is this future, that holds both our curiosity and fears, that we must now look to.
This outstanding exhibition incorporates cutting-edge technology with the latest information to give us an insightful look at what our new world might hold. Without a doubt we will all be keeping a close eye on what comes next in the robotic world. Let’s hope that we are brave enough to keep our minds open too.
Robots – The 500-year quest to make machines human is now touring the UK, (the exhibition was showing in Oxford at point of review).