Science Museum Robots exhibition: robots come in all shapes and sizes

E&T visited the Science Museum’s new Robots exhibition which opens today and chronicles the history of robots starting with the earliest mechanical devices all the way up to the modern day.

It showed how some of the earliest clockwork machines, developed in the 16th century, immediately became items of fascination and intrigue for many.

Robots’ prominent in science fiction and film is also explored and how rapid development in the last 20 years has brought concepts only dreamed of by writers for many decades into reality.

As with all good exhibitions, Robots began with a twitching facsimile of a baby illuminated by multi coloured lights.

Some of the earliest mechanical devices were on show such as this clock from 1590 which would only have been owned by the super-rich at the time.

This design was improved upon as seen in this model from 1650.

 A nineteenth century robot shaped like a swan was on show with some describing it as the ‘star attraction’ of the whole exhibit. Although not in motion due to its age, the life-size silver swan is capable of playing music and catching a golden fish out of a crystal stream. It is only set to remain in the exhibition for its first six weeks before returning to its home in the Bowes Museum in County Durham.

The robots from Metropolis and Terminator featured, possibly the two most famous in cinema history.

Caveat: this was the Terminator model used in 2009’s third sequel for the franchise, Terminator Salvation (the only one without Arnie unless a CGI recreation counts).

The first bi-pedal robot from 1987 is a delicate looking machine replete with dials and exposed wires giving it a cyber-punk aesthetic.

One can see how fast the robotics industry has progressed since then, this cheeky fellow opened the exhibition as well being on display within it.

The darker side of robots was explored such as this sinister guy eyeing up visitors as they moved around the exhibition.

Also this typically Japanese creation that is firmly rooted in uncanny valley territory.

These supposedly child friendly creations were even creepier:

One of the robots appeared to be doing some kind of Macarena dance.

Although on closer inspection it was actually assembling circuits and testing them automatically (with a little bit of dancing thrown in for good measure).

Robots that replicate human abilities were also featured such as these piercing robotic eyes that were designed to emulate human eyeballs for study and a robotic hand that could independently manipulate all of its fingers (and thumb).

Pepper the robot, which last year joined the staff of a Belgian hospital, was fist bumping attendees as they went by. 

It then started dancing (adorably) with a little girl who copied its movements.

Visitors are immediately led into a shop upon exiting that was chockfull with as much robot themed tat as one could possibly desire.

 The exhibition comes at a prescient time for robotics with the field advancing rapidly thanks to 3D printing, AI and other developments.

A report released yesterday even predicted that a quarter of a million public sector jobs in the UK could be lost to robots and computers over the next 15 years.

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