Review: Robots at Science Museum

The Science Museum has gone all science fiction with an exhibition dedicated to robots.

Disembodied eyes follow as we walk into the exhibition, only to be confronted by a very creepy animatronic baby. It hangs suspended from the wall and squirms realistically in an unnerving fashion. Walk around the side and you see the wires feeding into its back, just so we can make sure it’s not a real baby.

From the baby’s back we head back to the past as we see that the first automata were actually religious figures of a monk and Christ that moved mechanically and must have wowed the masses centuries ago.

There is an elaborate loom and an opulent machine for engraving onto a small piece of wood. But top billing in this section belongs to a silver swan. The swan will perform every day, but only once as it’s extremely fragile. It grabs fish and preens itself in a spell binding display.

The movies and toys occupy the centre of the show with classics like the robot from Metropolis and popular toys like Rock ‘em Sock ‘em robots. We had chills looking at the T-800 skeleton from Terminator.

The best is saved for last as we enter an area of working robots. One called Pepper waves to us and beckons us over. She introduces herself and then asks for a fist bump. Once we fist bump with her, she makes an explosion sound and then proceeds to tell a story. It’s all very remarkable.

Opposite Pepper is an eerily human like robot and we’re told the Pepper actually waves at her occasionally, confusing her for a human.

We see robots that are used in manufacturing and others to interact with autistic children. The scariest moment is as we head to the exit and realise we’ve just seen the ancestors of who will eventually replace us and most of the jobs we do.

This is the future and we need to prepare for it. Let’s get those discussions on Universal Basic Income started soon.

But for now let’s just enjoy what is an early contender for exhibition of the year.

Robots is on at Science Museum until 3 September

About Tabish Khan

Art Critic for both FAD and Londonist. See as many exhibitions as possible and write reviews, opinion pieces and a weekly top 5 for FAD.