Exhibition dedicated to robots in London


Tracing the development of robot technology over 500 years, the show adopts a dispassionate, philosophical approach, focusing less on how robots work than the questions of why we need to make machines in our own image, and what that tells us about our desires and ambitions. The show’s earliest example is a foot-high, still-functioning 16th-century mechanical monk, made for Philip II of Spain, while a life-size, solid-silver swan from 1772 looks like a preposterous rococo table ornament until it starts craning its neck around. The last room in the exhibition has a whole range of robots demonstrating their powers in what feels like a trade-fair of the future. Between them, Robothespian, a talkative, British-made robot-MC fluent in 40 languages programmed to respond to human facial expressions.


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