The robots are coming


Robots will invade Temple Bar this summer with all sorts of contraptions on show at the Ark children's centre , writes Mireia Pomar

What would you think about a robot that can draw your portrait, or a robotic DJ that can put together a music session? Can you believe that there are dog robots that can roam the streets in search of toxic chemicals?

It might sound like the next Hollywood science fiction film, but in fact, all these robots already exist, and they will be on display this summer in Dublin. Save the Robots is the name of the exhibition where science fiction becomes science fact. It opened to the public yesterday at the Ark cultural centre in Temple Bar, Dublin, and will run until late September. Visitors will be able to see and operate all kinds of robots, including veteran robots from the 18th century right up to the latest in robot technology.

"There are three categories in the Save the Robots programme," says the curator of the exhibition, Michael John Gorman. The exhibition explores robots and their evolution, and visitors will be able to have a look at robots from fantasy and science fiction. "The festival involves many kinds of events, such as an exhibition of the robots on the streets, and the International Robot Talent Show."

"We have children's workshops where children can create their own extraordinary robots using simple sensors and motors," he says. "With the workshops we want to support the creativity of the children and encourage them to see science as a creative activity."

The event includes many of the most extraordinary robots from around the world. The Auto Portrait Robot, for example, is a giant robotic arm that scans faces and sketches them accurately. If visitors want to dance, they can do so to the industrial sounds of DJ Robot, a reprogrammed industrial car robot that gives nothing away to the best DJs.

This summer and for the first time in Europe, Dublin will welcome the International Robot Talent Show, also known as "Artbots".

"Artbots is the world cup for robotics," says Gorman. "We are very lucky to have it here. This show has never been held in Europe before; it usually is in New York. Basically, only 12 of the best robots in the world perform, the competition runs for three days and you can actually meet the creators of the robots.

"There are some very strange robots, including one that is operated by a cockroach. The cockroach can make the robot navigate around. There are also robot dancers and many other artistic robots."

Save the Robots includes a range of activities suitable for all ages. There will be science fiction book readings, science fiction films and also an exhibition of robots placed around the city.

"We have a robot that can push its own trolley around the streets," says Gorman. "We also have a robot horse and many other robotic creatures appearing around Dublin.

"There will be robotic ducks in St Stephen's Green. The ducks will be operated by children, and children will be able to make robot ducks communicate with real ducks. The idea is to record the sound that is made by the real ducks, so children experiment on the world from the ducks' point of view."

Feral Robot Dogs is also a singular project. Children can modify a toy robot dog, making it become a sniffer robot dog by introducing sensors into its nose. The dogs can detect toxic chemicals on the streets, allowing children to carry out their own scientific research by exploring toxins in their environment.

Artists such as Natalie Jeremijenko, creator of the dog and duck robots, and Bruce Shapiro, from the Science Museum of Minnesota, will be there to help children with their creations.

"We also have a workshop, Hunter and Hunted, with Prof Noel Sharkey," says Gorman. "He is one of the people involved in the TV programme, Robot Wars, with the difference being that in Robot Wars the robots are controlled by remote control, and in the exhibition they are independent. Children have to programme them and then one robot is the predator and the other one is the prey. It is really like a biological approach to robotics."

Save the Robots runs all summer at the Ark, Eustace Street, Dublin 2. For more information, call 01-6707788 or go to