Lonely Planet Writer

Over 100 robots are coming to London for a groundbreaking new exhibition

A major new exhibition at London’s Science Museum will feature over 100 robots, including 12 working models. The exhibition, billed as ‘the most significant collection of human robots ever displayed’, explores 500 years of experimentation and ingenuity.

Articulated iron manikin with book.
Articulated iron manikin with book. Image by The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

The term ‘robot’ was first used in 1920, but their story goes back far further. The Robots exhibition features a 16th century mechanical monk, Victorian steam-powered creations, a 2.4m-tall robot from the 1950s called Cygan and one of the first walking bipedal robots.

Eric the robot - working replica of the UK's first working robot.
Eric the robot – working replica of the UK’s first working robot. Image by The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

It will explore how robots have developed through religious belief, the industrial revolution, science fiction and modern-day research labs. How humans and robots will interact in the future is a controversial area – some see robots transforming our lives for the better, while others predict their use resulting in mass unemployment or even robot revolution – and the exhibition will have a section in which visitors can consider how a future society might look.

NaoV5 Evolution humanoid robot created by Aldebaran Robotics.
NaoV5 Evolution humanoid robot created by Aldebaran Robotics.

Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group said: ‘This exhibition explores the uniquely human obsession of recreating ourselves, not through paint or marble but in metal. Seeing robots through the eyes of those who built or gazed in awe at them reveals much about humanity’s hopes, fears and dreams. Last year we moved gigantic spacecraft from Moscow to the Museum, but this year we will bring a robot back to life.’

Robina Partner Robot created by Toyota Motor Co. Japan c.2007
Robina Partner Robot created by Toyota Motor Co. Japan c.2007 Image by The Board of Trustees of the Science Musuem

The use of robots in the travel industry is growing every year. The world’s largest cruise ship, Harmony of the Seas, features a bionic bar with robots who can mix drinks. Several hotels use robots for room service, while Henn Na in Japan claims to be the world’s first hotel staffed by robots. A survey carried out by Travelzoo last year found that 80% of people expected robots would play a major role in their lives by 2020.

Robots runs from 8 February to 3 September and tickets are available at sciencemuseum.org.uk/robots.

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