Meet the robots at two exciting Sheffield exhibitions

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Cutting edge robot technology will be revealed to the public for the very first time at two live exhibitions this weekend as part of Sheffield University’s Festival of the Mind.

On display will be autonomous ‘quadcopters’ with the ability to follow volunteers, swarming robots that work together like ants, a therapeutic robotic seal which responds to touch and an expressive humanoid robot called Zeno, who plays Simon Says.

The first event is from 5-8pm on Friday at the Alfred Denny Building on the university campus on Western Bank while the second runs from 2-4pm at the Spiegeltent in Barker’s Pool in the city centre.

The exhibitions are part of a week long programme titled The New Age of Robotics, which also includes a series of lectures.

Experts from the Sheffield Centre for Robotics - SCentRo - will discuss the psychology of building human-like robots, the risks of killer robots, the potential of assistive robots, our fear of robots and the challenges of creating robots actually worth talking to.

The five lectures will be given by Professor Tony Prescott, Dr Lyuba Alboul, Professor Roger Moore, Professor Noel Sharkey and Dr Michael Szollosy, all from the University of Sheffield.

Dr Alboul will look at how human and robots can work together, such as on search and rescue missions, or by using a robot as a kind of guide dog.

Professor Moore will examine the technology that enables us to talk to machines, which has been progressing in leaps and bounds.

He will be asking when will we be chatting to robots just as we chat to our friends and colleagues?

Dr Szollosy will explore how and why robots have so often been portrayed as monsters, with the likes of Terminators, killer androids and genocidal cyborgs.

HIs lecture will look back at the historical origins of robots and the anxieties that they come to represent in our mythologies.

Robots form part of a long tradition of monsters, revealing a great deal about our fears of our own technological prowess, and what is happening to the very idea of the ‘human’ in a rationalist, scientific, mechanical age.

The 11 day long Festival of the Mind runs until this Saturday bringing academia to the streets.