Robots have been a key feature of sci-fi movies for some time: there are so many versions of what a ‘robot’ is, that even the word has become misleading. And though all of these images are popular myths and can feel pretty far away, a lot of people are saying that the ‘robot revolution’ now really is upon us.
Is it? And should we be afraid, as the movies suggest? Depictions of robots taking over the world and turning against their ‘makers’- such as in the film Ex Machina, which sees a frighteningly real looking female robot fall in love with a human, then turn against him - are not a million miles away from what could happen in a world which is creating more and more intelligent androids.
In fact, in making the film, director Alex Garland did loads of research into AI and humanoid robotics and says the tech firm depicted in the film has hundreds of versions of androids in the real world, most of them in China.
What are they used for? Despite what the films say, not all robots have a negative impact. During the pandemic, a hospital in the Wuhan province (where it all began) began deploying robots to help out exhausted and overworked frontline workers, provide food and medical supplies for patients and disinfect large areas of land.
Here are some unusual, but useful things robots are doing right now: sorting through foods like rice; cleaning big supermarkets; helping autistic children socialise; acting as dummies in police and medical training; inspecting and cleaning out sewers; shelving and transporting in warehouses (guess which multimillion dollar company is using them? I’ll give you a clue- it begins with A and ends in N and is also the name of a river. No surprise there).