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Film looks at humanoid robots and how they are taking it to the next level


Last updated 8/31/2015 at 6:40pm

ROBOTS, a new giant-screen film experience from National Geographic Studios, will open at the Rangos Omnimax Theater at Carnegie Science Center on Friday, Sept. 4.

The film is narrated by RoboThespian, a robot just like “Andy Roid,” who greets visitors at Carnegie Science Center’s roboworld™.

The film explores the millions of astonishing robots in existence today—and how innovators are taking robotics to the next level with the new generation of these awe-inspiring machines: humanoid robots that can work like us, play like us, learn, and even look like us.

In ROBOTS, host and narrator RoboThespian, an android voiced by actor, comedian, and filmmaker Simon Pegg (“Star Trek”; “Shaun of the Dead”), takes audiences on a lively tour of the world to meet a dozen of the most remarkable robots in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. Viewers will meet Robonaut, the first space robot handyman; robot butlers and home helper humanoids; eerily human-looking androids; and search and rescue robots. The film showcases the latest cutting-edge efforts—as well as the challenges—driving roboticists, engineers, and scientists around the globe to new breakthroughs.

ROBOTS provides rare access to labs where researchers are putting the robots through their paces, striving to replicate human capabilities such as mobility, locomotion and dexterity, using sensory data, and visual perception. Getting a machine to move or think like a human, or to sense, plan, and act is no easy feat, given the complexities and capabilities of the human brain, hands, feet, and face—not to mention the number of muscles and joints.

“This film will really open people’s eyes and make them think about how amazing these machines are, how amazing human beings are, and how complicated it is to make a machine that can do what we do,” said director Mike Slee.

The 40-minute large format film also explores the latest in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning, humanoid cognition, and human-robot interaction (HRI), as well as exciting developments in cloud robotics.

ROBOTS also travels to the DARPA Robotics Challenge, the intense two-day competition to test how robots might deal with disasters, staged by the U.S. Government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency as a response to Japan’s 2011 Fukushima earthquake. The competition tested rival all-purpose rescue robots’ abilities to perform tasks including driving, walking on rough terrain, clearing debris, opening doors, using a power tool, and turning a safety valve, all during catastrophic conditions.

“ROBOTS will captivate on every level,” said Brooke Runnette, president of National Geographic Studios. “Dazzling visuals and a tremendously entertaining story filled with real scientific adventure and technological innovation are all wrapped up in the eye-popping giant screen package.”

Meet the humanoids (in order of appearance):

With RoboThespian as a guide, the film highlights the featured aptitudes of each robot. Among the humanoids ROBOTS introduces to audiences are:

“HRP-2”: Designed to study locomotion, watch this bi-pedal bot crawl and walk.

“ASIMO”: Honda’s famed humanoid can jump and run up to 5 m.p.h.

“ATLAS”: This 6-foot, 330-pound search and rescue robot navigates rough terrain.

“COMAN”: Just try to knock down this small headless wonder with the flexible joints!

“HERB THE BUTLER”: We may never have to clear the table or do dishes again!

“ROBONAUT”: NASA’s space handyman “Robonaut” helps astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

“CHIMP”: This humanoid “sees” by using laser light and sending out pulses that bounce back, like a bat uses echolocation.

“JUSTIN”: You will definitely want this robot on your team! He has 90% accuracy rate for catching balls!

“iCUB”: This adorable robot is designed to look like a child and to learn like one.

“PR-2”: This robot could tie shoes (if it had any!) and fold laundry because of its ability to recognize shapes and manipulate soft and flexible materials.

ANDROIDS: The human face has over 40 muscles to express emotions like fear, anger, surprise, happiness—and these androids seem capable of these emotions, too.

“NAO”: This small humanoid used for education is a huge favorite with the kids everywhere.

ROBOTS gives audiences a fascinating and exciting look at what makes us human, how far machines must really go to look and act like us, and how humanoids are already changing our world. Addressing technological and philosophical questions with clarity and humor, the film provides a glimpse into a future in which man and machine forge an increasingly sophisticated relationship.

For more information about ROBOTS at Carnegie Science Center, including show times, visit


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