Human Robotics

The robot future is on its way

The Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein is currently showing a large robotics exhibition, running until May 14. The organizers are also leveraging the show to raise ethical, social, and political questions relating to automation and artificial intelligence.

24 Apr. 2017
Roboter Mark Niedermann Museum
(Photo: Vitra Design Museum / Mark Niedermann)

Robots have been making cars and washing machines and transporting passengers from one airport terminal to another as driverless trains for a long time now. And they’re increasingly finding their way into our lives – from communicating household appliances through software bots on various Websites. With over 200 exhibitors, the exhibition "Hello, Robot" at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein (Baden-Württemberg) aims to explore the entire spectrum of robotic applications. On show are robots from homes, industry, and the healthcare sector, as well as computer games, media installations, and examples from film and literature.

While robotics used to be the domain of engineers and computer experts, today designers are helping shape the robot world and governing how people use and interact with them. The exhibition therefore also raises the question of designer responsibility.

A program of talks, screenings, performances, and workshops complements "Hello, Robot". For example, on April 27, Industry 4.0 experts will be discussing the future face of work. Participating in the discussion will be Bruno Gransche, philosopher of technology at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI , Ruwen Kaminski, Head of Corporate Brand and Design at leading automation company Festo , and Marc Hassenzahl, Professor of Experience Design and Ergonomics in the field of Industrial Design at Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen.

Over the last few years, industry has also been calling for legal, political, and ethical guidelines for companies that design robots. Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, for example, warns that artificial, globally networked intelligence in the Internet of Things (IoT) could create conditions that pose less of a threat to its hardware than to the survival of the human race. And Tesla founder Elon Musk recently donated US$ 10 million to the Future of Life Institute : The Boston-based institute supports research programs worldwide that aim to curb the looming dominance of computers.

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