Robots on display at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

EXHIBITION: Robots @ Museum of Science and Industry

  • Robots is a temporary exhibition at MOSI showcasing 500 years of robotics
  • On Display until Sunday April 15th, 2018
  • Open daily 10:15 – 17:00
  • PRICE: £8 adults, £5 children. Family and Museum Association discounts available. Free for ages 6 and under.

When we picture robots we often envisage farfetched futuristic assistants, there to make our life on Earth that little bit easier, a C3PO or R2D2. But by stepping back and taking the time to think, you realise robots are already here and more involved in our lives than we first thought. Look at Amazon Echo, giving us our own know-it-all in a box, answering questions when we simply can’t be bothered to search for them ourselves.

Yet we still marvel at what the future of robotics holds for us, enough to draw a packed crowd into the exhibit of over 100 robots, tracking the 500-year technological developments they’ve been through.

Greeted by a wall-mounted wriggling mechanical baby, similar to the one in the classic Trainspotting scene, it’s enough to creep you out from the get-go. Lifelike qualities provoke your emotions into almost caring that its attached onto a display and it’s the perfect introduction to show humans obsession in trying to recreate ourselves in robot form.

Split into five sections, the first “MARVEL: 1570 – 1800” shows how as we began to mechanically map the universe in the 16th-century, we also began to question is clockwork inside ourselves – leading to the humble beginnings of the first robots. We began to see the body as a machine and we see this in some of the earliest examples of prosthetic limbs on show, far from the advancements they’ve taken today and more reminiscent of Jamie Lannister’s in Game of Thrones.

Moving forward, “OBEY: 1800 – 1920” demonstrates how the power of automation was harnessed to replace the slow and unreliable work rate of humans during the industrial revolution. Showing the foundations of robots replacing workers in factories almost 200 years ago.

If you’re starting to tire of primitive machines “DREAM: 1920 – 2009” showcases some of the most well-known robots from pop-culture. The displays consist of posters, toys and props from movies, including a life size replica of the classic T-800 from the Terminator films. Although all the exhibits are purely fictional rather than functional in this section, it provides a welcome entertaining break into the exhibit.

“BUILD: 1940 – PRESENT” steps from the daydreaming of what might be possible in the movies and focuses on the first robots with human capabilities. The cybernetic tortoise may look like something from a child’s DIY kit, but back in 1951 its ability to respond to light and objects in its surroundings dazzled audiences. BUILD also highlights the simple challenges we face when making robots, we may worry about them one day taking over, but until they can easily tackle a flight of stairs we might just be safe.

“IMAGINE: 2000 –” displays the first wave of ‘social robots’ that left the factory and entered our everyday life thanks to tech-advances in the 21st-century. Probably the most entertaining section of the exhibit with more advanced and purposeful bots on display, however there are limitations to quite small exhibit. It doesn’t offer any displays on the advancements of artificial intelligence and for machines whose primary function is to move the displays are all rather still and motionless. What the exhibition does do well is leaving you questioning what’s coming next.

Who knows in 50-years will we be the ones in the exhibits for the androids to examine? Let’s hope not.