National Museum of Scotland to celebrate human fascination with robots

Hundreds of years of fascination with trying to make machines human will be celebrated in a major new exhibition when it opens in Edinburgh within months.

The exhibition will focus on robots designed to resemble humans and to replicate human actions. Picture: Contributed

The National Museum of Scotland will play host to more than 100 robots, from centuries-old automatons to the latest creations emerging research laboratories, from January and May.

The forthcoming exhibition, developed by the Science Museum in London, will focus on robots which have been designed to resemble human beings.

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It will show how they have shaped religious beliefs, understanding of the universe, popular culture and visions of the future for more than 500 years.

Highlights will include a 16th century mechanical monk, some of the world’s oldest clockwork machines, a recreation of Eric, the UK’s famous first robot, and a lifelike mechanical human baby which makes sneezing and breathing movements.

A replica of Maria, the iconic female robot in the film Metropolis, and a “T-800” robot from the hit film Terminator Salvation are expected to be among the main attractions, along with some of the world’s first walking robots.

The exhibition is also expected to include a robotic receptionist, newsreader and thespian.

“It is also expected to offer visitors an insight into the latest innovations in robotics research and come face-to-face with what a future shared with robots might be like.

Ben Russell, lead curator of Robots, said: “Coming face to face with a mechanical human has always been a disconcerting experience.

“Over the centuries, each generation has experienced this afresh as new waves of technology heralded its own curiosity-inducing robots.

“That sense of unease, of something you cannot quite put your finger on, goes to the heart of our long relationship with robots.”

Dr Tacye Phillipson, senior curator of science at the National Museum of Scotland, said: “This exhibition shares the fascinating world of humanoid robotics, from antique automata to uncanny androids and automated workers.

“It shows some of the capabilities of these mechanical marvels, but also highlights how technically challenging it is for scientific fact to catch up with the imagination of science fiction.”