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Art Editorial

liferobots.jpg Robots come to Life

Robots have been around in one form or another for 500 years and a new show at the Life Science Centre is celebrating their existence, which, as visitors will see, is still an on-going work in progress.

Robots have been getting a terrible press of late. If they’re not rebelling (and confusing) the hell out of the future in Westworld, they’re about to put us all on the dole because of wholesale automation. But – take heart! - the dystopian joys of Westworld are still but a fantasy, and, as the late Stephen Hawking pointed out, it’s not machines that will bring about an economic robot apocalypse, but greedy humans (“If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared”). So let’s cut our robot chums some slack and embrace them, as, after all, they’ve been with us since the 16th century. Yep, this wide-ranging exhibition will dip right back to their humble beginnings as mechanical automatons and then bring us right up to date with the very latest humanoids – with everything that came between these two states also fully explored.

Linda Conlon, Chief Executive of Life, said: “Advancements in robotics and artificial intelligence have sparked many sensational newspaper headlines over the years. From taking people’s jobs to caring for the elderly, robots are a source of fear and fascination.

“As part of the exhibition, we’ll be asking people to share their thoughts about our future with robots by recording a message in our Robots: hopes and fears video booth. We want to know what people really think about driverless cars, whether they would keep a robot in their home and anything else on their minds – no hope or fear is too big or too small…”

In all the show will feature more than 100 exciting objects from the world of robotics including a small number of interactive robots. Me? I’m particularly looking forward to coming face to face with the fist bumping Pepper the Robot (oh yeah!) and a Robothespian, who can quote lines from famous films (here’s looking at you kidbot). 

Robots – then and now will be, of course, very family friendly and visitors will be able to design their own robot and choreograph their own robot dance moves. There will also be a new planetarium show for under-7s entitled Space Robots; the ever-popular 4D motion-ride will feature an adventure with Rusty; and there will also be the chance to build a robot from recycled materials at Making Space.

In all the show will feature five zones that look at developments in robotics from 1570 to the present day and will encourage visitors to question human emotional responses to inanimate machines. And while you’re there, Life has promised us that not one of them will swipe your job. Or kill you.

Robots – then and now, 26 May-2 December, Life Science Centre, Times Square, Newcastle. All day tickets include full admission to Life Science Centre exhibitions, planetarium and live science theatre shows, 4D motion ride and hands-on interactive zones. For more information and to book tickets visit: life.org.uk/robots