8 February – 3 September 2017
Tracing the evolution of robots from the 16th century through to the present day, this major exhibition examines the human need to recreate itself and asks where android technology will take us next.
Spread across five main timescales and locations, this ambitious display covers the astonishing 500-year history of humanoid robots. Beginning with the earliest examples of mechanised mannequins, it aims to bring visitors up to date with the latest technology, as well as playing on science fiction fantasies and posing questions of how the development of sentient synthetics will impact on society.
Of more than 100 exhibits, a 1582 articulated iron figure demands particular attention. Designed to show the workings of a human body, it demonstrates how our fascination with robots was borne out of a deep desire to understand ourselves.
Created in 1988, David Buckley’s pneumatic-powered Bipedal Walker is another key piece of machinery. Using 28 artificial muscles in its legs, it marked a breakthrough in western robotic science as one of the first prototypes to walk outside of Japan.
Visitors will have the chance to interact with 12 working models, the most striking being the eight-foot-tall Italian-made automaton Cygan. Described as having a glamorous past, the remote-controlled model became famous in the 1950s for his dancing demonstrations. Later, in 2013, his record-breaking sale at a Christie’s auction put him in the limelight once again.
Having raised £35,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, the Science Museum has successfully brought the UK’s first ever robot back to life. Affectionately named Eric, the original moving tin man was created in 1928 and wowed spectators all over the world before mysteriously disappearing. Painstakingly rebuilt from scratch, the shiny new Eric features proudly at the Robots exhibition and will follow it on its international tour, before becoming part of the museum’s permanent collection.