Dundee’s V&A museum unveiled a vast new installation partly built by robots to herald the opening of a new exhibition exploring how they are changing the world.
The waterfront attraction’s first international exhibition will explore how the latest robots are working side-by-side with humans in factories, being used as “household helpers and digital companions”, and even feeding babies.
Visitors will be able to pass through a huge timber structure, dubbed “Up-Sticks,” which has been made out of around 2000 wooden planks and timber dowels.
It has been created for the museum by a Swiss “robotic architecture” practice, Gramazio Kohler, and inspired by traditional building techniques in Scotland.
The “Hello, Robot” exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, will examine “the increasing blurring of the boundaries between human and machine,” if the latest robots can have feelings, and whether they will ever replace human beings in social contexts.
It will feature a therapeutic robot seal designed to provide affection and comfort to elderly people and patients suffering from dementia, a desktop robot which monitors stress levels and can gently pat the arm of a human being, hi-tech fashion which can sense danger, write manifestos, and respond to the “tone” of a discussion and begin to tremble if it senses aggression.
The exhibition also features 3D printed platform shoes, bionic ants, a spider dress which moves, breathes and reacts to changes in the environment, drones which have been designed to look less threatening and eco pods which use robot arms to help generate biofuels.
Big draws in the exhibition, which will explore how robots have shaped popular culture, will include an R2-D2 prop used for some of the iconic droid’s scenes in the first Star Wars film in 1977, an original 1926 poster for the celebrated silent film Metropolis, a 1957 robot created by the Japanese manufacturer Yonezawa, and a music video featuring robots kissing and embracing which was created for the Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork.
V&A Dundee’s new show is an updated version of the exhibition which was originally created by the Vitra Design Museum in Ghent, in Germany, the Mak Museum in Vienna, in Austria, and the Design Museum in Gent, in Belgium.
V&A Dundee curator Kirsty Hassard said: “Robots are part of our everyday and not a moment goes by without new developments in robotic technology.
“How and where we encounter robots, the sort of relationships we form with them, and how we interact with them – or they with us – is no longer the exclusive domain of engineers and IT experts. Designers are now often at the centre of these decisions.
““This is an exciting time, and the right moment, to be asking big questions about the role robots should and will play in all our lives.”
Hannes Mayer, senior researcher at Gramazio Kohler Research, said: “Up-Sticks is a demonstration of how traditional knowledge and craftsmanship can be combined with advanced digital design and fabrication processes to create surprising, beautiful and sustainable architectural structures.”