Robots long ago moved from science fiction to real-world fact. And while full-fledged androids aren’t sharing our homes yet, the intersection of engineering and computer science that drives robotics is ever accelerating, impacting the military, health care and more. It’s a brave new world, and it’s spotlighted in “Robot Revolution,” now on view at the Museum of Science & Industry.
The MSI originated the show two years ago and sent it on the road, where it wowed visitors at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Not surprisingly in a field that moves quickly, this latest installation features new examples of the work being done, including the ladder-climbing Yume Robo, a Rubik’s Cube whiz and the Omron LD Mobile robot, a self-navigating industrial model that moves freely about the exhibition.
Developed with the help of experts like Dr. Henrik I. Christensen, professor of computer science at UC San Diego and director of the Institute for Contextual Robotics, and Dr. Dennis Hong, professor and founding director of the Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory at UCLA, the show combines gee-whiz spectacle with solid scientific info to illuminate the many advances in robotics.
Through displays, interactive exhibits and video presentations, visitors gain understanding of the skills robots possess, their ability to cooperate with people and the systems that allow them to exercise a sophisticated physicality — grasping things, manipulating objects and moving about. You’ll get insight into facial-coding technology and robotic surgery, experience a furry therapy robot that responds to human touch and engage with bots in various games.
“The amazing thing is the exponential growth in robotics and the computing power behind them,” says John Beckman, director of exhibit design and development at the MSI. “Most every field is looking into ways humans can partner with robots to be safer and more efficient. Robots have been huge in manufacturing for a long time, but the big move we see right now is toward cooperative bots that are safe to work side-by-side with humans. In the last few years, nearly every major robot manufacturer has released or previewed [such a] robot. They can be used in any field — or even the home.” Alexa, you’re going to have company.
Through Feb. 4, 2018, Museum of Science & Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore. For tickets ($9-$12), visit Msichicago.org