Robots at the Science Museum

Robots: The 500-year quest to make machines human

On until 3rd September 2017 and open late (10pm) every Friday

- Remarkable 500-year history of robots revealed in major new exhibition
- Explore humanity’s quest to recreate ourselves in mechanised form
- Most significant collection of humanoid robots ever displayed, featuring over 100 robots

Robots is a major new exhibition at the Science Museum, exploring humanity’s 500-year quest to reimagine ourselves – not through paintings or sculpture – but as machines.

This intriguing exhibition features a unique collection of over 100 robots, from a 16th-century mechanical
monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs. Set in five different times, Robots
explores how religious belief, the industrial revolution, popular culture and dreams about the future have
all shaped society through the incredible robots on display.

Recent developments from robotics research are also on show, with visitors able to explore how and, more
importantly, why roboticists are building robots that resemble us and interact in human-like ways. The
exhibition encourages you to imagine what a shared future with robots would be like, with visitors able to
see the latest humanoid robots in action.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group described the exhibition as: ‘Visitors to Robots will see the greatest collection of humanoids ever assembled. This stunning exhibition explores the fascinating question of why, rather than how, we build robots. To look through the eyes of those who built, commissioned or gazed
upon these mesmerising mechanical creations over the past 500 years, reveals so much about humanity’s
hopes, fears, dreams and delusions.’

The first robot visitors to the exhibition will encounter is an incredibly life-like mechanical human baby,
recently acquired for the Museum’s new robotics collection. Usually made for use on film sets, this baby
has no intelligence, making only pre-programmed movements (sneezing, breathing and moving its arms
and legs) yet many visitors will feel strong emotions towards it.

Ben Russell, lead curator of Robots, said: ‘Coming face to face with a mechanical human has always been a
disconcerting experience. Over the centuries, each generation has experienced this afresh as new waves of
technology heralded its own curiosity-inducing robots. That sense of unease, of something you cannot
quite put your finger on, goes to the heart of our long relationship with robots.’

Our understanding of ourselves and our place in the universe has often been expressed through religious
faith, and Robots begins by exploring both the heavens and the human body. On display is a beautiful
Astrolabe, made in France in about 1300 and the oldest astronomical instrument originating in western
Europe. These clockwork machines provoked ideas about the human body as a machine, leading to the
creation of the earliest robots. Objects like the automaton monk – built in around 1560 and one of only
three in the world – were expressions of faith, but also of our desire to amaze, enthral and wield power.

The incredible Silver Swan, a life-size clockwork automaton built in 1773, will be on display until 23 March
2017, on loan for the first time ever from the Bowes Museum in County Durham. As the only one of its kind
in the world, the Swan uniquely illustrates our endless fascination with replicating living things in mechanical form. Its performances have enchanted audiences for four centuries and this will continue at the Science Museum as the Swan will play most weekday mornings at 10.25am.

Robots have been at the heart of popular culture since the word ‘robot’ was first used in 1920. In the
exhibition, visitors will come face-to-face with Eric, a modern recreation of the UK’s first robot, as well as
Cygan, a 1950s robot with a glamorous past, and a T800 Terminator used in the film Terminator Salvation.
The challenges of recreating human abilities, such as walking, in mechanical form is also explored, with
visitors able to study the intricate mechanisms of the Bipedal Walker – rescued by curator Ben Russell from
a forgotten basement cupboard – and Honda’s P2, two of the first robots in the world to walk like humans.

Visitors can watch as 16 mechanical forms spring to life and even interact with some of the robots on
display. Inhka, once a receptionist at King’s College London, will be answering questions and offering
fashion advice, Zeno R25 replicates visitor’s facial expressions and ROSA will move its camera ‘eye’ and
head to watch visitors as they move. Every twenty minutes Kodomoroid, the most life-like android of its
time, reads robot-related news bulletins, RoboThespian does vocal exercises and gives a theatrical
performance and Nao, the most widely used humanoid robot in the world, stands (or sits if tired) to tell a
story exploring how robots make decisions.

To find out more about the Robots exhibition, accompanying events and to book tickets, click here.

Marvel section of the Robots exhibition © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Marvel section of the Robots exhibition © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Four robots (l-r Sitting Robot, Cygan, George and Eric) from the Robots exhibition © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Four robots (l-r Sitting Robot, Cygan, George and Eric) from the Robots exhibition © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Four robots (l-r Harry, RoboThespian, ASIMO, Kodomoroid) in the Robots exhibition © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Four robots (l-r Harry, RoboThespian, ASIMO, Kodomoroid) in the Robots exhibition © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Build section of the Robots exhibition with ROSA in the foreground. © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum
Build section of the Robots exhibition with ROSA in the foreground. © Plastiques Photography, courtesy of the Science Museum