Preview: Robots Live!, National Museum of Flight

Jonathan Mostyn takes on a boxing robot
Jonathan Mostyn takes on a boxing robot
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HAVE you ever wanted to meet a dinosaur? Or waltz with a robot? How about having a third arm?

It’s a wishlist that dreams are made of. However, it could actually be closer than you think.

Robots Live! is back at Edinburgh’s National Museum of Flight to fulfil all your cyborg desires and offer both a retrospective and futuristic insight in the world of robot engineering.

The event, now in its third year, will play host to a vast array of all things robotic, and among the attractions is the animatronic T-Rex created by Millennium FX, the special effects company that has worked on Doctor Who, Tomb Raider, The Da Vinci Code and The Mummy.

Part of the opening festivities at the National Museum of Scotland last year, the strikingly lively beast is a genuine life-size model of a juvenile T-Rex.

The organisers of the event will even be letting the public get a look inside the model, to discover the technological know-how that allows the eyes, mouth and hands to be controlled to create the startlingly realistic effect.

It’s not all robotic monsters of course, and among the other attractions will be a chance for adults to step back into their youth with t some 1980s arcade classics.

The display will let them look at how video gaming has developed over the years and find out just how far the technology has moved on since the days of the Atari and Sega Megadrive.

Of course such technology is just the brain – for the brawn designers need to get physical, and the very best examples of this will be on display at the museum’s Concorde Hanger, which will be transformed into an arena for futuristic fighting robots to do battle.

The mean machines will do combat as part of a live Robot Wars tournament, featuring newly built machines battling it out alongside some of the classic champions from the original television series.

To show that it’s not all about muscle, there will also be performances from miniature dancing robots.

General manager at the National Museum of Flight Grant MacKenzie says: “We have a great line-up for this year’s event that we hope will appeal to children and adults alike.”

“Robots never fail to fascinate people and as technology moves forward, what was once pure science fiction is now becoming a reality. Robots Live! will provide a glimpse of the future plus a nostalgic look back at the best-loved technology of yesteryear.”

The event won’t be looking entirely at the novelty aspect of robots. The exhibition will be working alongside the Edinburgh Science Festival, which featured its own intimate look at the mechanics of robotic limbs, and will be hosting workshops as part of its Generation Science programme, with a team of skilled scientists providing demonstrations to school children.

The interactive workshop gives a more hands-on approach that will allow you to step into the world of a scientist. Youngsters will be able to make their own miniature robot and get an insight into robotic engineering.

Joan Davidson, education manager for the Science Festival says that the workshops have been popular in the past.

“It’s normally the first opportunity where someone gets to programme a robot,” she says.

“It does take some problem solving and team playing – but people doing it for the first time will get a great sense of achievement.”

The main focus of the event and workshops is to show the developments within the engineering and technical side of robotic science. One of the more unique exhibits that will show this is the advancements towards prosthetic limbs – from the designs developed during the 16th century to the latest inventions.

People will be given the opportunity to interact with the i-LIMB bionic arm – a prosthetic hand from Touch Bionics that looks and moves like a natural hand.

The chance to be able to control the i-LIMB gives an insight into the huge development that has been achieved within prosthetic limbs and how important they are in helping people.

Joan said it would help demonstrate that despite the recent advances there’s still a lot of work to be done to improve them further.

“We want to show the challenges over how we can get a robot to mimic our moves exactly,” she says.

“We also use the robots to show the people how truly amazing it all is because we all take walking and running for granted and showing how we try to programme robots to do various tasks can show how difficult it can be.”

Robots Live! is an opportunity to delve into the fascinating world of robotics – where you can meet the scientists who are coming up with all the different ideas and inventions to help shape our future. Once you look into this interesting industry you’re able to get a sense of how amazing robots actually are, what we’ve got to look forward to in the future and how it’s actually all very beneficial for the human race.

So a machine that can do the washing up for you may be closer than you think.

• Robots Live! at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune takes place on Sunday 17 June from 10am until 5pm. Ticket Prices: Adults £10.50/£8.50, child over five £5, children under five free. Family ticket £27.50, National Museums Scotland members free. For further information, visit www.nms.ac.uk.