Is this the future? H.G. Wells reviewing Metropolis, 1927:
“But Rotwang, the inventor, is making a Robot, apparently without any license from Capek, the original patentee. It is to look and work like a human being, but it is to have no ‘soul.’ It is to be a substitute for drudge labour. Masterman very properly suggests that it should never have a soul, and for the life of me I cannot see why it should. The whole aim of mechanical civilization is to eliminate the drudge and the drudge soul. But this is evidently regarded as very dreadful and impressive by the producers, who are all on the side of soul and love and suchlike. I am surprised they do not pine for souls in the alarm clocks and runabouts. Masterman, still unwilling to leave bad alone, persuades Rotwang to make this Robot in the likeness of Mary, so that it may raise an insurrection among the workers to destroy the machines by which they live, and so learn that it is necessary to work. Rather intricate that, but Masterman, you understand, is a rare devil of a man. Full of pride and efficiency and modernity – all those horrid things.”
He seeks to unravel what separates sentient intelligence—like that displayed by humans—from behavior that is simply anthropomorphic. Robots don’t have to possess artificial intelligence, he has discovered, in order to behave in ways that humans interpret as intelligent.
“If you see certain movements, you have certain associations,” Orellana says. “For example, the motions a baby makes are really simple, right? And when we see the same things in a really simple system like a biped robot, it’s silly movement, but immediately we associate personality traits with it. I don’t necessarily have to program artificial intelligence. I just have to set up a system that simulates the correct motions, and the human mind will do all of the association.” ( Amy Van Vechten )
…As customers enter the dimly lit restaurant lined with blinking neon lights to simulate a futuristic environment, a female robot decorated with batting eyelashes greets people with an electronic “welcome.” During the meal, crowds of up to 100 customers, are entertained by a dancing and talking robot that looks more like a mannequin with a dress, flapping its arms around in a stiff motion.
The restaurant, which opened this month in Jinan in northern Shandong province, is touted as China’s first robot hotpot eatery where robots resembling Star Wars droids circle the room carrying trays of food in a conveyor belt-like system. More than a dozen robots operate in the restaurant as entertainers, servers, greeters and receptionists. Each robot has a motion sensor that tells it to stop when someone is in its path so customers can reach for dishes they want. The service industry in China has not always kept up with the country’s rapid economic growth, and can be quite basic in some restaurants, leading customers in the Dalu restaurant to praise the robots. “They have a better service attitude than humans,” said Li Xiaomei, 35, who was visiting the restaurant for the first time.
“RUR, The Birth of the Robot is my version of the playwright R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots)written in 1920 by Karel Capek. The dystopian narrative and the fact that the word Robot was employed for the first time to designate autonomous machines made the play a classic. In my version the narrative is fairly changed, as the robots have a much more active role and the moralistic dissertation is totally removed. But, more importantly, for the first time the robots represent themselves in the stage next to the human actors. Three robots, Babá, Primus and Helena, move freely, talk, perform and interact with the human actors in an autonomous manner.”
“…Orellana is increasingly comfortable with his understanding of technology and his ability to build complex systems for his art. He keeps an eye on advances in robotics and in applications from medicine to bionics (he advises his students who are more interested in robotics than art to go into bionics) to everyday life.
The most important thing he has seen is the dramatic increase in cheap, high-volume processors. This will allow more people to experiment with robotics, eventually making robots as common as personal computers. But for Orellana, art remains the most interesting way to investigate the intersection of man and machine. He is currently focused on painting, exhibiting art from Drawing Machines and working on new machine-based projects.
“I actually get really bored with robots if they’re not for some artistic reason,” he remarks. “If there’s no poetry in it for me, it’s sort of just a gimmick. It really is all about the art.”