In science fiction, robots take on diverse forms — such as R2D2 and C-3PO from Star Wars, Robby the Robot from "Forbidden Planet," or the cold steel behemoth, GORT, from The "Day the Earth Stood Still."
These images have be-come cultural icons, representing what most people think of when they hear the word "robot." But in the real world, robots also take on diverse forms, ranging from service-friendly vacuum cleaners and precision mechanical arms that help build cars, to playful robotic pets the whole family can enjoy.
Through Sept. 4, visitors to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will see what robots look like in real life and how we use and interact with them in hands-on labs, when the "Robots + Us" exhibit makes its debut. "Robots + Us" will give OMSI visitors a lighthearted look at modeling artificial life after the real thing, without the threat of robot world domination.
"Robots + Us" encourages OMSI visitors of all ages to compare sci-fi fantasies of robots with today's technical realities and to explore why it's so hard to build robots to be like humans.
They will direct light-sensitive robots through mazes they create in the Robot Arena; experiment with walking machines in the Leg Lab to learn how simple changes in anatomy can affect how these machines walk and handle obstacles; interact with Jeremiah, a giant-size computer-generated character and discover factors that influence his "mood"; and even use their newfound robot smarts and some simple household materials to build jitterbug robots of their own.
"Robots + Us" is about the making of lifelike machines in robotics, computer science and biomedical engineering. It is about how those machines extend capabilities and change lives. It is also about some persistent questions with a surprisingly long history: Could a machine ever be alive? Could we make machines that exceed our own capabilities? Are we, too, a kind of machine?
To learn more, visit www.robotsandus.org. OMSI is located at 1945 S.E. Water Ave. For more information, call 503-797-4000 or visit www.omsi.edu.