For some, a robot is a mechanical arm or a driverless train at the airport. For others, deep in laboratories in Japan, the United States and elsewhere, robots are about ideas of android consciousness, iterative algorithmic learning and the human-machine interface.
In this film, robotic technology meets science, ethics, medicine, war and general modern life. We meet Erica, Seer, Bina48, Alter and Baze – five lifelike androids, often disturbingly similar to their designers – and hear from their makers about their challenges and achievements. Conscious emotion, trust and feelings in androids, as well as motion technology, touch design and building a “sixth sense” into algorithmic decision making, are just some of the challenges.
The film also takes us to robotics in neuroscience, where Nathan Copeland, paralysed in a car accident, has neuro-prosthetics fitted into his brain to facilitate movement in his prosthetic arm. We see robotic testing in commercial settings and robots on the battlefield – the new norm in weaponry. Interspersed amongst these insightful and at times unsettling elements are clips from films and pop culture which remind us of how our own human aspiration created machines that are so eerily like ourselves.