Cosmos - - Spectrum - — ANTHEA BATSAKIS

IN OUR VI­SION of the fu­ture, the world seems to be crawl­ing with robots. From the ter­ri­fy­ing cy­borg played by Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger in Ter­mi­na­tor (1984) to the du­ti­ful an­droid por­trayed by Michael Fass­binder in Prometheus (2012), hu­manoid robots have starred in sci-fi cin­ema for decades.

In fact, me­chan­i­cal men (and women) have been alive in our imag­i­na­tions for half a mil­len­nium. This block­buster ex­hi­bi­tion at Lon­don’s Science Mu­seum ex­plores the fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory.

Fea­tur­ing more than 100 robots, the ex­hi­bi­tion gives vis­i­tors a chance be­tween Fe­bru­ary and Septem­ber to wit­ness the evo­lu­tion of robotics, moulded over the years by re­li­gious be­liefs, the in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion and, of course, pop cul­ture.

The ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tures his­toric ro­bot relics dat­ing back to the 16th cen­tury, such as a clock­work monk built for King Philip II of Spain; it still works, though is rarely wound up for the sake of preser­va­tion.

Also show­cased is Cy­gan (pic­tured above) – an eight-foot tall aluminium hu­manoid cre­ated in 1957 that orig­i­nally had the abil­ity, thanks to 13 elec­tric mo­tors and about 300,000 parts, to walk, turn its head and lift its arms. It was con­trolled by ra­dio sig­nals and rudi­men­tary voice com­mands.

Th­ese rar­i­ties are strictly look but don’t touch. There are, how­ever, 12 work­ing mod­els in the ex­hi­bi­tion that vis­i­tors can in­ter­act with.

With mod­ern-day re­search labs and 3D-printed work­ing mod­els ex­hib­ited, vis­i­tors can see how far the robotics in­dus­try has come, and that as the pace of ro­botic en­gi­neer­ing ac­cel­er­ates, the talk­ing, think­ing feel­ing robots of sci­encefic­tion are fast be­com­ing a re­al­ity. 8 Fe­bru­ary – 3 Septem­ber, 2017

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