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It’s behind you: the humanoid robots that look creepily real

Planet Business: Cineworld’s bankruptcy risk, France’s private jet aversion, and the UK’s economic slump

Image of the week: Human v humanoid

The World Robot Conference 2022, held in Beijing, wrapped up last Sunday, or so the robots would like us to think. But it would be remiss to just skip past this terrifying update on the ever-advancing skills of robotics experts, who can now not only design a robot with the same facial features as someone else, they can produce one that looks deeply unimpressed with its human counterpart. Humanoid robots with the ability to mimic human expressions — to an uncanny extent — were the stars of the show, with other robots manifesting in the shape of scientists Albert Einstein and Michael Faraday. Robotics companies are now mastering the art of imbuing their creations with more complex movements than just sitting, standing and walking about, giving them more dexterous hands, more realistic skin and — in the scariest development yet — getting them to smile.

In numbers: World of cine


The considerable debt pile at Cineworld, which admitted this week it was thinking about filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US.


Top Gun: Maverick has taken more than this much at the worldwide box office this summer, making it the sixth-highest grossing film in history, but a cinema chain cannot dine out on Tom Cruise alone.


Box office data from Comscore suggests global cinema takings are this much lower in 2022 than in 2019, with the number of actual releases down by an even greater degree.


Getting to know: Clément Beaune

French transport minister Clément Beaune has the not unreasonable belief, shared by many, that perhaps millionaires, billionaires and multibillionaires shouldn’t just be allowed to zoom about all over the planet on private jets, burning it in the process. “I think we should act to regulate flights by private jets,” the ally of Emmanuel Macron told Le Parisien newspaper. France will now consult its EU partners on how to go about this, with transport ministers due to meet next month. Beaune (41) has a track record of saving on carbon emissions himself — inadvertently, anyway. In 2001, while completing a year’s study at Trinity under the EU’s Erasmus programme, he lived with other students in a rundown house near Seapoint Dart station. “Sometimes it was like camping,” he told The Irish Times in 2020. “The heating didn’t work and there was rarely hot water.”

The list: UK economic doom

Nobody’s economy is exactly in perfect shape at the moment, but in Britain, where Conservative Party members are preparing to install a new prime minister, the outlook looks especially gloomy.

1. Official recession forecast: The Bank of England expects the UK economy to slide into recession by Christmas, thanks to surging energy bills, and then keep shrinking for more than a year.

2. Soaring inflation: The annual rate of consumer price increases could hit 18.6 per cent in early 2023, analysts at investment bank Citi said earlier this week. UK inflation hasn’t been that high since the 1970s.

3. Interest rate response: Investors now expect the Bank of England to raise the cost of borrowing to 4 per cent next year, more than doubling the current rate of 1.75 per cent.

4. Factory slump: A manufacturing downturn appears to have deepened this month amid staff shortages, supply bottlenecks and waning customer demand, while growth in services has turned anaemic.

5. Brexit: As OECD chief economist Laurence Boone put it earlier this summer, there’s “probably a bit of Brexit” in the explanation for the UK’s economic performance, which the OECD expects to be the second worst among G20 countries in 2023, behind only Russia.