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Step into the latest exhibition at London’s Science Museum, and you will be instantly welcomed by an animatronic baby.
With his moving arms and blinking eyes, this incredibly realistic mechanical human is a bewildering – if not unsettling – sight.
And that’s one of the goals of the museum’s new show looking at 500 years of humanoid robots: to chart their evolution and explore our reaction towards them throughout history.
“Robots trouble us,” curator Ben Russell tells Al Jazeera.
“When you see a robot you’re reading a lot into it as a human. If they are very lifelike, you don’t really know what is the source of their being,” he continues.
“It troubles us, but it fascinates us, as well.”
With more than 100 creations on display, the exhibition is the most significant collection of humanoid robots ever shown, according to the Science Museum in the UK capital.
Among the highlights are a 16th-century automaton monk designed to pray – the oldest object in the show – and a silver swan, built in 1773 by a Belgian clockmaker who also invented roller skates.
Others, such as the loom, which brought industrialised weaving to the 19th century and put thousands out of work, enable guests to discover the social and technological context of robots – just as many jobs in modern factories have been replaced by machines
“Five hundred years of history makes you realise that there has always been uneasiness around robots,” Al Jazeera’s Jessica Baldwin, reporting from the show, said.
“Today’s fear about driverless cars or mechanical nurses are nothing new.”
The exhibition runs until September 3.