Science Museum: Robots

This afternoon, I visited the robots exhibition in the Science Museum. It revealed the 500-year quest to make machines human, and how robots can mirror humanity and how they can contribute to our ambitions and desires in a fast changing world.

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The 18th century was the golden age of automatons (a moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being). The finest ones were built for European royalty, and the makers became some of the most influential people around. These swirled rods would twist, and then the fishes would be moving, as if they were actually swimming, and the same is for the swan too.

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Single shuttle loom, UK, 1895 

The Northrop Loom Company alone built 700,000 of these machines for weaving cloth. They were descended from a generation of textile machines that transformed the nature of factory work around the world in the 19th century. This is to remind us how machinery transformed the nature of work.

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This robot, REEM, is a service robot. REEM’s designed to be gender neutral, yet people often refer to it as “she”. Although many humanoid robots are designed to be obviously masculine or feminine, manufacturers believe this will help users to interact more easily with their products. But this subtly encourages past ideas about the roles of men and women. That’s why gender neutral robots can help us be less sexist, thus improving our way of life and thinking currently.

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Kodomoroid (2014) was one of the most realistic androids in the world when it was created. She was designed as a newsreader, and she read out actual news stories in this display. She’s made with flexible silicone skin from a whole head cast of a female model. Each hair was inserted on the body by hand. The exhibition proposes whether we could ever be close to a robot as we are with our best friends, but I personally feel that it’s rather creepy!

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Telenoid is a telecommunication avatar- a replacement for the person on the other end of a telephone conversation. The robot is designed to bring people on long distance phone calls closer together. The caller’s voice and movements are captured by a microphone and camera. Telenoid communicates these to the receiver. The eerie blank appearance is to allow users to project their own attachments onto the robot. I think it’s almost terrifying that technology is replacing human contact. It could become so satisfying that we drift even further apart, and robots can replace our face-to-face interactions completely.

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These robots are designed to help children with autism, and they are designed to engage in playtime activities.Children can build confidence in socializing with people by learning with a robot first. They are successful because they are “honest”- they don’t show the children that they are alive, and cannot give false impressions.

What intrigued me most from this exhibition was the potential of “clockwork” inside our human bodies. It’s a powerful thing, that our body can be broken down into gears and cogs. It further enhanced my pursuit of producing mechanism for my FMP, because technological advancements are what I find most exciting, and most scary.

 

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