Robots march on the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh

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FROM Robbie the Robot in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet to Star Wars’ R2D2 and C3PO and Doctor Who’s Daleks, robots have long fascinated mankind.

Of course, in reality, they are very different to their movie and TV counterparts, as you will discover in a major new exhibition opening at the National Museum of Scotland next week.

Robots will explore 500 years of humanity’s quest to re-imagine ourselves as machines.

Developed by the Science Museum, Robots features a unique collection of more than 100 robots, from the earliest automata to those from science fiction and modern-day research labs.

Robots have been at the heart of popular culture since the word ‘robot’ was first used in 1920 and visitors to the exhibition will come face to face with Eric, a modern re-creation of the UK’s first robot; as well as Cygan, a 1950s Italian-made robot which could go forwards and backwards, move its arms and crush drinks cans with its hands; and a T800 Terminator used in the film Terminator Salvation.

Looking at five different time periods, the exhibition considers the role of humanoid robots in religious belief, the Industrial Revolution, popular culture and society’s dreams of the future.

Recent developments from robotics research are also on display, examining why roboticists are building robots that resemble people and interact in human-like ways.

Visitors will also be given the opportunity to see some of the latest humanoid robots in action and to find out more about what a shared future with robots might be like.

There will also be a chance to interact with some of the robots on display; Inkha, once a receptionist at King’s College London, will be answering questions and offering fashion advice, Zeno R25 replicates visitors’ facial expressions, and ROSA will move its camera ‘eye’ and head to watch visitors as they move.

RoboThespian will perform vocal exercises and give a theatrical performance, Baxter will learn how to pick objects up and Nao - the most widely used humanoid robot in the world – will tell a story about how robots make decisions.

Robots, NMS, Chambers Street, 18 January-5 May, £10/Under 16s free