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Having avidly watched the TV series Humans, exploring what life would be like with robots by our side and what could happen should they become sentient, I approached the Science Museum’s newest exhibition with some excitement. Visitors are greeted by rows of near-skeletal metallic heads, and a writhing robot baby.

But the birth of robotics begins not with androids, but with clocks. Clocks and clockwork previously seemed to propel the heavens above, prompting sage scholars and scientists to ask: were people built from a kind of clockwork too? Religion has often overlapped with science. Indeed, the Catholic Church commissioned early automatons or dioramas depicting Biblical scenes to educate and amaze.

The exhibition displays an intricate animated swan and a tiny robot spider. Descartes, the great thinker, proclaimed that only people have souls – animals are but mere automata.

Several film posters and toys are on display, from Cybermen to the Terminator. The twentieth century brought us the first voiceactivated robots and heralded the dawn of artificial intelligence.

All the individual elements of the classic humanoid robot are displayed. There are intricately detailed 3D printed hands. Bipedal walking was first conquered by Honda’s P2 robot and made cute by its successor, SoftBank’s Pepper.

Service robots are displayed, highlighting the promise of relief from labour and increase in leisure time. Now with increasing unease, as the future of automation arrives, we all ask about the safety of our own jobs. Artists are surely most secure – yet on display is a trumpet-playing robot, and even an acting robot. The actor cheerily calls out to me, “Hello there young man!” – there is still room for improvement, clearly.

The exhibition ends with an unnervingly realistic feminine robot from Japan (where else). Kneeling to take “her” picture, I am uncomfortable. I feel as voyeuristic as a tourist stopping to snap a Geisha. The other service robots deliberately don’t look like people.

As I leave I eyeball the shop assistants at the exit- are they real?

Fiona Smith is Events and Administration Officer at Bright Blue