Today’s robots are nothing short of astonishing. Those coming in the not-too-distant future are simply revolutionary – and becoming eerily like us. London’s Science Museum will open a “theatrical” exhibition on robots next year, with exhibition design completed by Drinkall Dean. Image: Space scout, 1970s, Japan.
What does it take to make a humanoid robot – a robot that can do anything we can but without the benefit of a human brain? How close are scientists to replicating some of the particularly challenging human characteristics (think fingers and toes)? Why are we even attempting to create humanoids in the first place?
Opening in February 2017, London’s Science Museum’s next blockbuster exhibition will explore the 500-year story of humanoid robots and the artistic and scientific quest to understand what it means to be human.
Set in five different periods and places, the exhibition features a unique collection of over 100 robots, from a 16th-century mechanical monk to robots from science fiction and modern-day research labs. Twelve of the robots will be working models and you may even get the chance to interact with one.
The exhibition is split into rooms exploring five periods and places, which aim to show robots in the context of religious belief, the industrial revolution, popular culture and ideas of the future, says the Science Museum. It will also delve into recent developments in robotics research, revealing how machines are being built that interact in human-like ways and which resemble people. In an immersive section at the end of the exhibition, the audience is asked to imagine a future shaped by robotics technology.
This articulated iron manikin dates all the way back to 1582
Visualisations and details about the exhibition design are yet to be revealed, but Drinkall Dean creative director Paul Dean says each room has been designed “with its own personality and experience” to “take visitors on an unexpected journey”.
“The visitor will experience the unexpected and will move through time becoming aware of our desire to create ourselves,” he says.
He adds that the show will answer questions about what we will learn from robots and vice versa, and how robots will engage with humans in the future.
The design consultancy has worked with theatre designer Tim Hatley to help create a “theatrical approach to the exhibition”, Dean says, using “theatre materials, techniques and lighting throughout”.
It has also worked with designer David Atkinson on lighting and Helen Lyon on graphic design.
The show will go on tour after its seven-month stint at the Science Museum, so Drinkall Dean has also aimed to create something “flexible and demountable, which can be reconfigured to work within different environments”, says Dean.
Robots, which opens in February 2017, will feature a collection of more than 100 humanoid robots, and aims to analyse how humans want to “recreate themselves”, the Science Museum says. The show will feature 12 working robots which visitors can “interact with”, as well as machines that date back to the 1500s. It is also set to “bring a robot back to life”, by launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise £35,000 to rebuild the UK’s first ever robot.
The exhibition has been supported with a £100,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.
Robots will run 8 February – 3 September 2017 at Science Museum, Exhibition Road, London SW7 2DD.