London's Science Museum opens the largest ever exhibition of humanoid robots on Wednesday, exploring our 500-year history of recreating life through automation. Lucy Fielder reports.
Meet ThespoRobot - all singing, all dancing, and welcoming visitors to "Robots", opening in London Wednesday (February 8). It's the largest collection of humanoid machines ever to go on show - and they go back a surprisingly long way. The Science Museum exploring our 500-year-old obsession with creating automatons, and what it means to be human. The show explores not 'how' but 'why'. We're fascinated with recreating nature - this clockwork swan has enchanted crowds for 250 years. Our earliest mechanized selves were religious. This monk from 1560 beats his chest in prayer to inspire faith and awe. He still works. The word "robot" first appeared in 1920 - and filmmakers were soon in thrall. From Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' to the 'Terminator'. But these are the bots that could populate our future. Working alongside us in factories, caring for us. Teaching autistic children how to read faces. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ANNA DARRON, CURATOR OF THE ROBOTS EXHIBITION, SAYING: "We really raise these questions of what sort of relationship do we want to have with robots in the future because as this technology develops and becomes more prevalent it's something we're going to have to consider as a society as a whole, because we're going to have to make these decisions before the technology gets there." Realistic humanoids stir an instinctive emotional response. But there are things the most advanced robots can only impersonate. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBOTHESPIAN, ROBOT, SINGING: "I guess I'm just assumin' that I could be kinda human if I only had a heart." RoboThespian's personable, but there's an actor behind that screen. We can't yet build robots with hopes and dreams of their own, but their existence says much about ours.