Star Wars R2D2 appears at robot exhibition

(4 Nov 2019) LEAD IN:
Where once robots were only ever seen in science fiction films, now they are rapidly becoming part of everyday life: in our homes and workplaces.
The Hello, Robot exhibition at the V&A Dundee is showing off the latest robotic developments – as well as nostalgic pieces like Star Wars’ R2-D2.

This piece of Hollywood history is one of the most famous robots of all time, and this is the first time it’s ever been on display in the UK.
R2-D2 from the Star Wars films is being exhibited at the V&A Dundee in an exhibition called Hello, Robot.
The Scottish actor, Jimmy Vee, who donned the R2-D2 robot suit for the upcoming Stars Wars film ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, says there’s only one way of describing the feeling of being inside the costume:
“Jump inside a wheelie bin, close the lid and sit there for 15-20 minutes – it’s the only way you can explain it,” he says.
Organisers of the exhibition says the event aims to raise questions about the complex relationship between humans and machines.
Mhairi Maxwell, an assistant curator at V&A Dundee says the exhibition explores a number of themes, which include how robots and humans could work together and how robots could care for humans in the future.
“Hello, Robot explores our encounters with robotics. It takes you on a journey through kind of four stages. The first section of the exhibition is really asking you have you ever met a robot, looking at the science and fiction of robots,” she says.
One of the exhibits shows a dual armed factory working robot called YuMi. Maxwell says this robot has already been rolled out to factories and shows how humans and their electronic counterparts already collaborate in the work space.
“You walk into section two which is really exploring that provocative will a robot take my job question and you are greeted by YuMi, which is a robot which works side by side with humans in factories. This is quite a rolled-out robot now you’ll find in most factories in the automation industry and so on.”
A scribe robot that writes random manifestos is also on display. The robot, which according to organisers has been loaded with every manifesto every written, scribbles random sentences that often don’t make any sense.
According to Maxwell it aims to raise questions about how much power robots ought to have as they don’t yet have the intellectual capacity to take over certain creative tasks, such as writing.
Another part of the exhibition looks at robots designed to care for humans. One robot prototype is a mechanical arm with a baby bottle attached to it designed to feed infants, while another display is called the End of Life Care.
The idea behind the latter would be to comfort humans when they are alone in the final days of their life.
Although just a concept at this point, Maxwell says the creator has had emails from hospitals and care providers, asking when it will be rolled out on the market as a genuine product:
“And for me that’s quite a frightening prospect. And then that poses a really ethical dilemma there. Are you comfortable handing that over to technology but of course that person is alone so it’s giving them some sort of comfort. So are we comfortable giving those objects that role?” she adds.
People who visit the exhibition can also interact with Kit, an empathy robot, that reacts in different ways depending on the tone of the person speaking to it.
The Hello, Robot exhibition will be on display until February 2020.

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