The robots are coming! The robots are coming! (To a museum near you)

The robots are coming! The robots are coming! (To a museum near you)

by MIKE HRYMAK | Aug 9, 2015

The revolution has begun...

In its first stop as a national touring exhibit, Robot Revolution has taken over Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) this summer, offering a rare, hands-on experience with "the coolest robots ever assembled." Sponsored by, the Boeing Co., United Airlines and others , the interactive, educational display opened to the public in May and will leave just after New Year's Day.

"We are thrilled to bring this cutting-edge content to MSI and to tour it to other science museums around the nation," said MSI President & CEO David Mosena at the exhibit's opening. Added Jim Lecinski, vice president and head of Google’s Chicago office, “We believe it is vital to inspire the next generation of engineers and tech entrepreneurs so that we can continue to see technology change the world.”

With all this in mind, as a BuiltWorlds summer intern, I figured I should visit MSI to see what all the fuss was about. After all, one of my first events here in June was Robots to the Rescue, so this seemed like a logical next step as a field trip. Here is what I saw at the revolution...

GAMERS: Interactive "Baxter" is a robot that was developed to work alongside humans, primarily in factories. Above, MSI has repurposed it as a toy playmate, allowing two youngsters to play Tic-Tac-Toe with it the same time. In the next picture, a Yaskwawa/Motoman dual-arm robot can challenge visitors to a game of '21'.  (Click on the arrows to see more from the exhibit.) 

SMiLE!  EMYS responds to facial expressions.

SMiLE!  EMYS responds to facial expressions.

Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the city's south side, MSI has been around since the 1930s. However, its main building actually dates back to the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, when it opened as the Palace of Fine Arts in Daniel Burnham's White City. Today, it is home to its own coal mine; the Apollo 8 spacecraft; U-505, one of two German subs captured during WWII; and lots more. But on this work day, I was on a mission to see robots. So I blocked everything else out and made a bee-line for the futuristic exhibit to see what this revolution had in store. 

MSI calls the exhibit "a cutting-edge collection of robots from all over the world," and that's no lie. I was greeted at the entrance by EMYS, which uses the facial recognition of a Microsoft Kinect and facial coding software to see you and understand your emotional expressions. It makes eye contact, can read your facial expressions and even make faces of its own.

games robots play 

Exoskeleton technology is also on display, showcasing its ability to augment physical strength. This tool can be used by paralyzed individuals to help them regain mobility. Another highlight is the soccer bots, small robots that resemble poker chip caddies. They glide across the pitch, communicating with each other and trying to score on a robot goalie. Every hour on the hour, crowds are drawn to the green arena to watch these bots compete and put the ball in the net.

Overall, the exhibit is divided into four areas --Cooperation; Smarts; Skills; Locomotion-- that delve into various aspects of robotics and offer specific, hands-on activities and wild videos. The intent is to show how modern engineering breakthroughs are helping to create robots that can work with humans effectively to enhance our lives.

Our own Robots event in June showed just how much technology is advancing in the AEC space. This exhibit at MSI is a great opportunity to see what other amazing innovations are out there in other industries that may soon be changing our lives both at work and at home. So, if you're in Chicago this summer or fall, plan a trip, bring the kids and show them what the future holds. And next year, the exhibit may be coming to a city near you.


A summer intern with BuiltWorlds, the author is a junior at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, majoring in Broadcast Journalism. As time permits, he will continue to report for us this fall on Illini engineering and architecture news.



The minds behind the MSI exhibit include lead advisor Dr. Henrik I. Christensen, KUKA Chair of Robotics at the College of Computing of Georgia Institute of Technology and executive director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines, as well as Dr. Dennis Hong, professor and founding director of RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) of the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department at UCLA

Robot Revolution is sponsored by, with additional support from The Boeing Company, RACO Industrial, The David Bohnett Foundation, The Kaplan Foundation, and United Airlines. 




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