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Robots like humans – innovations at the Copernicus Science Center

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to tell my story. I am a smart man because I have a very good brain with 48 electrical relays,” with such words in 1939, at the New York World’s Fair, the first humanoid robot, Elektro, presented himself to the public [1]. His “body” was 210 cm tall, weighed 118 kg, and he was able to walk, count, talk, sing and smoke cigarettes, among other things. This was the beginning of a long history of humanoid robots, which leads us to the Copernicus Science Center in Warsaw, where today we host robots such as Babyclon and Robot Kopernik. What distinguishes the new robot – the humanoid Ameca? 

Robotic Women’s Day

Ameca, created by British company Engineered Arts, is already the third humanoid robot at CNK – it appeared at the exhibition on March 8, 2024. Ameca, which is 187 cm tall, has blue eyes, and a blue-gray complexion, stands out not only for its appearance, but also for its advanced functions. She is equipped with 61 actuators, 27 of them in her face, which allows her to finely mimic human emotions, making her facial expressions extremely realistic and sophisticated. She moves smoothly, and her face, made of silicone, enhances subtle muscle movements. Using GPT’s language model, Ameca can carry out intelligent conversations using Internet resources and generate a variety of content. On display in front of her were “Babyclon,” resembling a newborn baby, and “Copernicus,” reflecting the figure of Nicolaus Copernicus himself. These robots not only demonstrate technological advances, but also provoke thought about our future alongside such advanced machines. It is subsidized by the “Science for You” Program of the Minister of Science and the Copernicus Science Center.

The Ameca robot is part of the “The Future is Today” exhibition. We provoke you to imagine the future and your role in that future – in a changing world. We can think about what the world will be like when such characters become widespread. How will we feel surrounded by robots that are faster and more robust? Should we treat it with respect and attentiveness or the opposite, because robots have no feelings?

– Irena Cieslinska in an interview with PPA [3]

Interacting with robots like Ameca opens new perspectives on understanding AI and robotics. At CNK, filters were set on dialogues with the robot to avoid controversial topics like politics. Human reactions to such realistic robots range from amazement to anxiety. This raises questions about the emotional and social impact robots can have on humans. The upcoming robot-dog Spot from Boston Dynamics adds a new dimension to this robotic family. Spot can navigate a variety of terrain and be used in applications ranging from surveillance to disaster relief. This raises questions about ethics, safety, and how these technologies will change our everyday lives.

Ameca is a more advanced robot than “Copernicus.” It has unbelievable facial expressions, but yet we can see that it’s not human, which creates a rather strange impression. It seems to me that this is a different picture of the future, which we will probably have to confront in the future

– Robert Firmhofer in an interview with PPA [3]

Copernicus copes with the most difficult questions

Having the face of Nicolaus Copernicus, standing 190 cm tall and weighing 100 kg, Copernicus is an impressive example of engineering and technology. It uses an advanced GPT3 language model with 175 billion parameters, enabling it to talk about any topic and handle the most difficult questions. However, there is not a single artificial intelligence behind Copernicus’ operation. Various programs are needed to enable it to recognize faces, track with its eyes, understand speech, interpret text and provide answers. [4] Additional AI is responsible for the robot’s natural-sounding voice. All of this makes the robotic Copernicus look deceptively similar to a human, which may cause an uncanny valley effect for some. Like Ameca, Copernicus represents new possibilities for understanding AI and robotics. CNK has set filters on dialogues with both robots to avoid controversial topics such as politics.

First Steps: Televox and Elektro

It is worth mentioning Televox, from 1928, which was a prototype robot. Although it was originally used for simple operations at power stations, its evolution through the hands of Roy J. Wensley led to the creation of Elektro. Televox started the path that Elektro later followed, astonishing the public with his abilities, even though he couldn’t actually walk or talk – uttered only two sentences. After the war, Elektro became a celebrity robot, taking part in advertising campaigns before eventually being forgotten and later rediscovered and placed in a museum.

Robots such as Ameca and Copernicus, as well as the upcoming robot-dog Spot from Boston Dynamics, which can navigate a variety of terrain and be used in applications ranging from surveillance to disaster relief, are signs of our increasingly high-tech times. CNK plays a key role in educating the public about these technologies, as well as raising important questions about their impact on society and our future. With technological advances we are seeing many challenges, but also countless opportunities. Robots, from Elektro to Ameka to Spot, not only testify to our engineering genius, but also raise questions about our place and identity in an increasingly automated world. Ultimately, they are not only tools, but also a mirror in which our ambitions, hopes and fears for the future are reflected.

Cover photography: Copernicus Science Centre

Bibliography:

[1] Artificial Intelligence, “1939: the first humanoid robot,” https://www.sztucznainteligencja.org.pl/portfolio/1939-pierwszy-robot-humanoidalny/ [accessed March 12, 2024].

[2] Krystian Rusiniak, Ameca android at the Copernicus Science Center. See the fascinating creation of the power of the human mind, https://tvmn.pl/Androidka-Ameca-w-Centrum-Nauki-Kopernik-Zobacz-fascynujace-dzielo-potegi-ludzkiego-umyslu-FOTOGALERIA-7758a [accessed 12.03.2024].

[3] Polish Press Agency, Third humanoid robot at the Copernicus Science Center. Another robotic dog, https://www.pap.pl/aktualnosci/trzeci-robot-humanoidalny-w-centrum-nauki-kopernik-kolejnym-robotyczny-pies-nasze-wideo [accessed 12.03.2024].

[4] Robots at Exhibitions, Copernicus Science Center, https://www.kopernik.org.pl/wystawy/robot-kopernik  [accessed 12.03.2024].

Zuzanna Czernicka
Bio:
I am deeply immersed in the dynamic world of banking and FinTech. My focus encompasses critical areas such as foreign exchange, payments, and the cutting-edge landscape of FinTech regulation. My academic interests span a broad range of topics including electronic payments, Open Banking, blockchain impacts, the DeFi ecosystem, NFTs, ICOs, and tokenization. I am dedicated to understanding and analyzing the new regulatory frameworks shaping the FinTech world. Currently, I am writing my Bachelor's thesis on the robo-advisory services. This work reflects my commitment to understanding and contributing to the regulatory frameworks that are vital for the growth and governance of emerging financial technologies.
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Zuzanna Czernicka

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