The Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in Chicago brought back its national touring exhibit Robot Revolution, which re-opened on Thursday, May 11, 2017, and will run through Sunday, February 4, 2018. Google.org, the philanthropic arm of Google, supports the exhibit, which also receives major support from The Boeing Company. The M.S.I. previously displayed Robot Revolution from Thursday, May 21, 2015 through Sunday, January 3, 2016. In a press release, the M.S.I. stated, “Robot Revolution explores how robots, created by human ingenuity, will ultimately be our companions and colleagues, changing how we play, live and work together. The exhibit returns to Chicago, where it had its world premiere in 2015 at MSI, after exhibit runs at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.”
For its return to the M.S.I., Robot Revolution includes a mixture of robots that were on display before and robots that are new to the exhibit. The M.S.I. stated, “The exhibit comes to life with a collection of cutting-edge robots secured from some of the most innovative global robotics companies and universities.” Yume Robo from Muscle Corporation of Japan is a sixty-pound climbing robot that can ascend and descend a ladder. It demonstrates its climbing abilities in the Museum of Science and Industry’s Entry Hall (formerly called the Great Hall). A soldier or policeman can literally throw the micro-robot Recon Scout® Throwbot® XT from Recon Robotics in Edina, Minnesota into a dangerous building and it will send back audio and video feeds to determine the location or presence of armed subjects and hostages. RoboThespian from Engineered Arts Ltd. of England is a humanoid robot that greets guests as they enter the exhibit. [Thespis of Icarius was the first actor and the first playwright. A thespian is a dramatic actor, as opposed to a comedic actor. Specifically, he is a tragedian.] The Cube Solver works out a Rubik’s Cube in a flash. A gripper holds the cube up to a color camera, which contains a vision system run on a Windows PC. Smart image-processing software solves the puzzle nearly as fast as the gripper turns the cube. Daisy from HEBI Robotics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a hexapod (six-legged walking robot) that traverses rough terrain. Omron LD Mobile from Omron Adept Technologies, Inc. in San Ramon, California (a subsidiary of the OMRON Corporation of Japan) is an Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle that needs neither magnets nor navigational beacons to make its way through a warehouse, factory, or laboratory.
“Robotics is one of the most fascinating areas of science today because scientists and engineers are constantly pushing the boundaries of possibility,” stated David Mosena, President and C.E.O. of the Museum of Science and Industry. “We are thrilled to bring our original groundbreaking exhibit back to the Museum. We hope that the opportunity to interact with such a wide range of robots will help people understand how robots become an integral part in helping to improve our world and inspire the next generation of innovators.”
The exhibit development team consulted Dr. Henrik I. Christensen, Qualcomm Chancellor’s Chair of Robot Systems and Professor of Computer Science in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and Director of for Contextual Robotics; and Dr. Dennis Hong, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, and founding Director of RoMeLa (Robotics & Mechanisms Laboratory) of the Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering Department at University of California, Los Angeles; amongst others. Robot Revolution has four exhibit areas that focused on different facets of robotics: “Cooperation,” “Smarts,” “Skills,” and “Locomotion.” These exhibit areas have a mixture of robot artifacts, activities, and videos.
The visitor to “Cooperation” will see EMYS from Wroclaw University of Technology in Poland mimic his or her own facial expressions with its advanced facial-coding technology. It employs a Facial Action Coding System. PARO®, from Dr. Takanori Shibata of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, is a furry baby seal therapy robot. It has sensors that can respond to one’s touch. A robot exoskeleton is on display that augments physical strength and can be used by those who are paralyzed. [This is a real-world version of something that is a mainstay of science fiction: the powered exoskeleton as seen in Aliens (1986), Exosquad (1993-94), M.A.N.T.I.S. (1994-95), The Matrix Revolutions (2003), Elysium (2013), and Edge of Tomorrow (2014).] This is the Ekso GT Robotic Skeleton from Ekso Bionics in Richmond, California. It is a force multiplier that lends supplemental strength and endurance to the wearer. Civilian applications of this technology include helping people who have trouble walking or are actually paralyzed. A surgical training simulation allows one to see what it is like to perform a robotic surgery. One can watch Soccer Robots from the ZJUNlict Team of Zhejiang University in China cooperate with each other as they compete in a game.
In “Smarts,” one can learn how thinking machines sense their surroundings, develop plans, and carry them out. Utilizing its visual tracking software, ROBOTIS-OP is able to follow one’s face and make “eye contact.” Instead of writing code to control the UR5 robot arm from Universal Robots in Denmark, it learns to repeat movements made by the user.
In “Skills,” one can learn about the capacity robots have to mimic—and often surpass—human skills. The visitor can experience selecting and lifting objects with robot grippers. Observe the Fanuc delta robot expediently and precisely select and sort items. A dual-arm robot of Yaskwawa/Motoman Robotics of Japan can challenge the visitor to a game of 21. Baxter, an industrial robot from Rethink Robotics, Inc in Boston, can play two people simultaneously in games of tic-tac-toe.
In “Locomotion,” one can learn about the variety of ways that robots can move. There are robots that can access places where humans cannot venture. One can test ROBOTIS-MINI’s ability to maintain its balance as it places one foot before the other. Notice how TOPY OSCAR can use its long rubber treads to ascend and descend stairs. Emergency responders can use it to investigate unstable buildings. See demonstrations of the six-legged RHex from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia as well as the aforementioned spider-like Daisy. CHARLI (Cognitive Humanoid Autonomous Robot with Learning Intelligence) was developed by Terrestrial Robotics Engineering & Controls (T.R.E.C.) Laboratory and RoMeLa (Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory) at Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Figure 1 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Kathleen McCarthy, M.S.I. Director of Collections, looks on as visitors watch the Cube Solver from Rixan Associates and DENSO in Dayton, Ohio solve a Rubik’s Cube.
Figure 2 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Daisy is a hexapod (six-legged walking robot). Potential uses include urban search and rescue and archaeological exploration.
Figure 3 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: RoboThespian, which greets visitors as they enter the exhibit Robot Revolution, can speak and move in customizable ways.
Figure 4 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The 1.3-meter-tall CHARLI, developed to move and be shaped like humans, can walk in all directions, turn, and kick.
Figure 5 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: In Robot Revolution, the Omron LD robot helps the Robot Specialist by roaming the exhibit, speaking with guests.
Figure 6 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: In the exhibit Robot Revolution, museum visitors can watch Soccer Robots from the ZJUNlict Team of Zhejiang University in China chase the ball, pass it, and defend the “net.”
Figure 7 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: In the exhibit Robot Revolution, museum visitors can challenge this industrial robot to a game of blackjack.
Figure 8 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Yume Robo is a sixty-pound robot from Muscle Corporation of Japan with arms and legs, coordinated by smart motors, which allow it to climb a ladder.
Figure 9 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Baxter from Rethink Robotics, Inc. in Boston is a collaborative robot, easily programmed to perform simple, repetitive tasks people may find mind-numbing. Due to its capacity to be remotely programmed, small companies can make use of Baxter, as well as large companies.
Figure 10 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Baxter, an industrial robot, can play two people simultaneously in games of tic-tac-toe.
Figure 11 Figure 12 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: PARO®, from Dr. Takanori Shibata of Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, is a therapeutic baby seal robot that responds to the touch of human hands.
Figure 13 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: In the Museum of Science and Industry’s exhibit Robot Revolution, visitors can build robots with Cubelets from Modular Robotics in Boulder, Colorado.
Figure 14 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: One can interact with over forty robots in Robot Revolution.
Figure 15 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: With its face-tracking software, ROBOTIS-OP from ROBOTIS in South Korea is a humanoid robot that senses when a person is looking at it. ROBOTIS-OP can align its camera-eyes with that of a visitor to the Museum of Science and Industry’s exhibit Robot Revolution.
Figure 16 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: The ROBOTIS-MINI from ROBOTIS in South Korea does karate, dance, or perform a head-stand on command. This is a miniaturized version of ROBOTIS-OP.
A ten-minute-long Drone Show takes place several times per hour. This features a Parrot MiniDrone, an ultra-compact drone unmanned autonomous vehicle (U.A.V.) that operators can control from a smartphone or computer tablet.
In the exhibit, guests also get to see regular maintenance of robots in the RoboGarage. To keep the exhibit full of functioning robots, robot specialists check sensors, troubleshoot programming, and make repairs.
“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,” stated Jim Lecinski, head of Google’s Chicago office. “Google is happy to support MSI’s Robot Revolution exhibit to make complex concepts accessible to kids of all ages and to get them excited about science, technology, engineering and math.”
In addition to financial support from Google.org and The Boeing Company, funding for Robot Revolution comes from RACO Industrial, The David Bohnett Foundation, The Kaplan Foundation, and United Airlines. The M.S.I. has expressed gratitude to the Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO), the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers– Robotics and Automation Society (IEEE RAS) and ITA, Inc. for their assistance with the development of this exhibit.
Robot Revolution is not included in Museum Entry (general admission) tickets, which are $18 for adults and teenagers and $11 for children ages three-to-eleven. It requires an additional timed-entry ticket, $12 for adults and $9 for children. One can buy tickets online in advance at https://www.msichicago.org/visit/tickets. This time of year, the Museum of Science and Industry is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Museum of Science and Industry is located in the northeast corner of Jackson Park in the neighborhood of Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago. It stands on 57th Street at the intersection with Lake Shore Drive. The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637. The phone number is (773) 684-1414.