We went to London's Science Museum to meet the past, present and future robot overlords

Want to get an early glimpse at the architects of the robopocalypse? Or at least the mechanised drones that’ll be forcing you into an early retirement? Then you should check out the fantastic new Robots exhibition at London’s Science Museum.

Running from 8 February to 3 September 2017, the exhibition includes more than 100 robots and automata curios, covering our centuries-old infatuation with mechanical man. 

“This is the most intelligent, global and complete robotics exhibition ever presented,” said Ian Blatchford, the Director of the Science Museum Group at the opening of the exhibition today.

“It’s the most important collection of humanoid robots ever assembled, and it takes the longview, covering 500 years of history. Modern robotics would be impossible without the renaissance exploration of man as machine, the dazzling automata of the enlightenment and the complex extremes of science fiction.”

Robot evolution (and revolution)

The exhibition features everything from a 16th century Spanish automaton monk from the Smithsonian collection in Washington to cutting-edge technology from around the globe, including Honda’s Asimo and Aldebaran’s Pepper to less familiar creations. The majority are shown in action too, along with detailed descriptions of how they work and what their intended purpose is.

The exhibition's 16 moving robots are the showstoppers at the Science Museum event. Highlights include the Silver Swan (an intricate clockwork masterpiece built in the 1770s) and Robothespian, a UK-built robot from Engineered Arts that can rattle off Shakespeare and musical numbers like the best of the thesps.

Pop culture takes on robotics get a look in too, from cheery Rock’ em Sock ’em toys to the actual T-800 prop, as menacingly seen in Terminator Salvation.

“The journey through the exhibition reveals some unsettling truths about us, our hopes, fears, dreams and delusions,” added Blatchford, speaking to the press in front of a wall of dozens of robotic eyes, tracking visitor’s movements around the exhibition space.

'Bots on tour

It’s a timely opening for the Science Museum. Just this week a report into the future of the workplace suggested that 250,000 British jobs could be at risk from automated technologies, while companies like Amazon are pioneering human-free businesses including delivery services and supermarkets.

If you can’t make it to London, don’t fret. In October the exhibition moves to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, as the star attraction of the 2017 Manchester Science Festival. In 2018 it then moves on to Newcastle’s Life Science Centre before finishing up in the National Museum of Scotland in 2019. It will then tour internationally until at least 2021.

It’s an engrossing glimpse into an increasingly-close future. Tickets cost £15 for adults, £13 for concessions, while children under 7 get in for free. For bookings and information on the many one off talks, film screenings and shows accompanying the Robots exhibition, visit the Science Museum website.

Gerald Lynch

Gerald is Editor-in-Chief of iMore.com. Previously he was the Executive Editor for TechRadar, taking care of the site's home cinema, gaming, smart home, entertainment and audio output. He loves gaming, but don't expect him to play with you unless your console is hooked up to a 4K HDR screen and a 7.1 surround system. Before TechRadar, Gerald was Editor of Gizmodo UK. He is also the author of 'Get Technology: Upgrade Your Future', published by Aurum Press.