Welcome to Robotville

There is a temporary exhibition space at the Science Museum which, most of the time I’ve been there, has either been empty or hired out for a corporate event. I walk through the space from the control room to the stairs to the basement. This morning it was packed with people, computers and little display areas.

Of course, having been away for a few weeks, I had no idea what it was all about. I found out when I reached my desk and read through the 50 odd emails I had accumulated.

The exhibition is called Robotville and highlights 22 robots from all over Europe with their inventors. It is only on for a week (finishes Sunday 4 December).

According to the brochure, it was all inspired by a seven year old called Rohan Tryc-Bromley who “...dreamed of making a show about robots.” His mother is Polish and works for the European Union National Institutes for Culture London, which, it would seem, made it possible for her to make his dream come true.

The brochure also states the fact that 2011 marks the 90th anniversary of the first known occurrence of the word ‘robot’ in print. It was coined by Karel Čapek in his play RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robot).

The robots in the exhibition are amazingly diverse. There is the child robot which looks scarily real. It’s face changes and helps teach children about emotions. Kaspar has been developed in Hertfordshire, specifically to help autistic children. Although he can’t walk around, he can use his arms and, apparently will laugh if you tickle his feet.

My favourite was the Shadow Hand, another UK based robotic effort. It is, as it states, just a hand but what a hand it is! It can do anything a human hand can do (considerably more than my left hand can at the moment) but looks like a robot. I could have stood and watched it for hours. It looks straight out of science fiction but is completely real.

A favourite with the kids was iCub. This is him below.

Teach me, please.

iCub, an Italian robot, learns things and is helping researchers understand how the human brain develops. There were two of the robots at this stand. One was standing and playing ball with a woman who was engrossed in a conversation with the techie guy. Her son was busy trying to work out the second robot which was sat in an armchair reading something Italian.

Me boy, you robot

The entire exhibition was fantastic and incredibly cool. I went down to the basement after lunch and said as much, telling them they had to go and see it because it was so cool. Then Lucy went to lunch. As soon as she returned she started telling the others how cool the robots were and that they should go.

Before the robots, I popped out to the Natural History Museum. As I’ve been taking quite a few bird photographs for the blog lately, I figured I better not stop all of a sudden. I managed to get a very rare bird indeed. A native of Mauritius and somewhat extinct.

Dead as one

In fact, I was going to blip the above dodo, just for a laugh, but, due to unforeseen circumstances, I found myself walking across Waterloo Bridge (built completely by women) after dark. I looked back along Victoria Embankment and thought it looked lovely. So I rested the camera on a post and snapped this shot.

Victoria Embankment by night

For blip I changed it to black and white because I felt it strengthened the reflections in the water. In case you missed it, here is my blip.

And then, to cap off my already busy day, I completely forgot we had booked to go to Farnham Maltings to see Anna Searight play her guitar and sing her songs. Unfortunately, Mirinda had forgotten as well. It was halfway through dinner that I remembered. Mirinda was all for not going as it was now a spur of the minute thing rather than something booked at the beginning of the week. Fortunately I insisted.

Anna was very good, while her mother, proud as punch, flitted among the audience hunting down email addresses for her daughter’s mailing list.

Girl and guitar

Without taking anything away from Anna’s incredible talent (and, indeed, the talent of all three ‘girls with guitars’ we’ve seen) I am a bit befuddled about the content of these songs. They are always angst-ridden tales of woe either about the loss of love or a friend or just about trying to fit in. Clearly these are excellent subjects for songs and can be successfully emotive heart string tuggers but, (and I asked Mirinda about it, seeing a she’s female) surely they could have a couple of funny songs for each set. Is that so completely bonkers?

Of course, Mirinda’s reply was to start singing Paddy McGinty’s Goat.

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2 Responses to Welcome to Robotville

  1. Mirinda says:

    Anna may have been angst but she had a particularly beautiful and unusual voice. She also recorded as she went and built up layers of tracks. I’ve never seen that before.

    But it’s true she could’ve done with Paddy Mcgintys Goat.

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  2. mum cook says:

    Wow!! Robots very interesting yes you are right the black and white photo much better,
    love mum

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