The Robotville Festival

The Robots Are Comming

Imagine a world where robots are part of everyday life. Do you wish you had domestic help from a robot? Would you play with a pet robot? Could a robot talk to you and share your feelings? Fancy meeting your robot self face to face? At present a robots computer brain has to read data from each of its sensors, one after another, before it can work out its exact position. It is laborious and seriously limits speed. Increased computing power and development of multiple processors will allow these readings to be analysed simultaneously – while also pushing AI experts to design software that can deal with multiple data inputs.

This field is driven by the need to build complex automated robots that can work in hostile environments at speed: nuclear reactor repair vehicles, submersibles and rover vehicles for European and U.S. missions to Mars. Consider the current generation of Mars rovers. They move at a snail’s pace because they can only check, with painful slowness, the input from each of their sensors.

Future craft, such as Europe’s ExoMars project, will be designed to move much more quickly across the planet’s surface in their search for life, and will require considerable use of multiple processing computing. Similarly, missions to the moons of Jupiter, such as Europa – where ice-covered seas may harbour underwater life forms – will require spacecraft to carry robot submersibles capable of even more rapid data processing.

Devices like these should be in operation in a decade or so. By then, robots will also be helping to care for the elderly, playing important roles in surgical operations, controlling our cars and replacing soldiers in the battlefield. This still leaves us some way short of the intelligent machines envisaged by Clarke or Asimov, however – a point acknowledged by Ronald Arkin, a robotics expert who is director of the Mobile Robot Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, USA.

“It is almost impossible to predict when machines will become as clever as humans,” he says. “That will depend on breakthroughs that still have to take place, and given that research in AI progresses in fits and starts, it is impossible to predict timescales accurately.”

All this and more was revealed at the Science Museum’s RobotvilleEU where a whole range of amazing robots from around the world were on display.

RobotvilleEU, taking on board an original idea by EUNIC London (European Union National Institutes for Culture), in partnership with the European Commission-funded Cognitive Systems and Robotics Programme and the European Commission Representation in the UK, celebrates the most cutting-edge in European robot design and innovation and explores the cultural significance of robots.

Science Museum’s RobotvilleEU played host to over 20 unique robots, many of which have just come out of European research labs and will be on show to the British public for the first time. The exhibition was divided into six zones; with a range of domestic robots, swarming robots, swimming robots, exploring robots, and humanoid robots on show. Roboticists, from the UK and Europe, will also be on hand to demonstrate their work and talk to visitors.

Paulina Latham, Head of Events, Polish Cultural Institute and acting project leader for EUNIC London said; “Europe has a rich history and tradition of robotic development in science as well as in our culture. The concept of artificial intelligence and robotics goes back nearly 3000 years, so this event shows how far we have come. 2011 also marks the 90th Anniversary of the term ‘robot’ – coined by Czech writer Karel Čapek in his play RUR – so what better way to celebrate than a festival of the most advanced and progressive of robots.”

robot hand

Stuart Umbo, Content Developer at the Science Museum, said; “Robotville explores how robots will become an inherent part of life in the future. It explores how the idea of robots has pervaded our culture for hundreds of years but is only now becoming a reality. We’re very excited to be able to showcase the latest and greatest in European robotic research and design all under one roof at the Science Museum.”

RobotvilleEU, opened the Science Museum’s month long celebration of robots in December  consisting of talks with experts, robot workshops, Q&As with curators, art installations and multimedia and much more all the way up to the New Year.

Libor Král, Head of Unit, European Commission, said; “The European Commission-funded Cognitive Systems and Robotics Programme supports Robotville in the broader context of European Robotics Week, which will highlight the growing importance of robotics in a wide variety of applications, across Europe. Robotville is a great opportunity for EU-funded projects to show the public how European robots will be able to help them in their daily lives.”

RobotvilleEU at the Science Museum took on board an original idea by Paulina Latham and Anna Tryc-Bromley from the Polish Cultural Institute in London, developed together with EUNIC London (European Union National Institutes for Culture). It is being run in partnership with the European Commission-funded Cognitive Systems and Robotics Programme and the European Commission Representation in the UK.

About Art Selectronic

Art Selectronic is an artist-led initiative, that supports grass-roots contemporary art that remains unswayed by fashion, trends or the whims of government funding. The project involves ongoing research into the placing of contemporary art, it’s audiences and it’s relationship to the everyday. We place great emphasis on context. Our mission is to support new works of contemporary art and foster an audience from a wide range of backgrounds.
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