In our vision of the future, the world seems to be crawling with robots. From the terrifying cyborg played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator (1984) to the dutiful android portrayed by Michael Fassbinder in Prometheus (2012), humanoid robots have starred in sci-fi cinema for decades.
In fact, mechanical men (and women) have been alive in our imaginations for half a millennium. This blockbuster exhibition at London’s Science Museum explores the fascinating history.
Featuring more than 100 robots, the exhibition gives visitors a chance between February and September to witness the evolution of robotics, moulded over the years by religious beliefs, the industrial revolution and, of course, pop culture.
The exhibition features historic robot relics dating back to the 16th century, such as a clockwork monk built for King Philip II of Spain; it still works, though is rarely wound up for the sake of preservation.
Also showcased is Cygan (pictured above) – an eight-foot tall aluminium humanoid created in 1957 that originally had the ability, thanks to 13 electric motors and about 300,000 parts, to walk, turn its head and lift its arms. It was controlled by radio signals and rudimentary voice commands.
These rarities are strictly look but don’t touch. There are, however, 12 working models in the exhibition that visitors can interact with.
With modern-day research labs and 3D-printed working models exhibited, visitors can see how far the robotics industry has come, and that as the pace of robotic engineering accelerates, the talking, thinking feeling robots of science-fiction are fast becoming a reality.
Robots Science Museum, London Open till 3 September, 2017