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Our Friends Electric? Robots in cinema and robot design today

Our Friends Electric? Robots in cinema and robot design today

7 October 2014


Whilst technology is an often unremarkable part of our daily lives, robots still seem like the stuff of science fiction. In partnership with the BFI as part of their sci-fi blockbuster season we're taking a look at the reality of robot design today.

Star Wars may give us cute, quirky and helpful 'droids, but sci-fi cinema more commonly presents the robot as an unsettling or uncanny figure, and often as downright malevolent (see Alien and The Terminator). Why? Where does our fear of robots - human-shaped technology, displaying signs of human sentience - come from? And is it justified?

With human qualities increasingly being applied to technology, how should we react to the reality of robots in our lives - with fear, or with wonder? Will the portrayal of robots in films have an impact on the adoption of assisted living technologies? Where do science fiction and science fact meet? What sort of robots are actually being designed by technologists and engineers, and how soon can we expect to be coming face to face with artificially intelligent computer systems?

A panel of experts will consider cinematic robots in the light of recent (and possible future) technological developments, and discuss some of the ethical dilemmas facing the field of robotics, dilemmas which have fascinated sci-fi filmmakers so much.


  • Chaired by Sir Christopher Frayling – cultural historian
  • Paul Chong – European Director, IBM Watson
  • Sophie Mayer – Film Journalist, Sight & Sound
  • Noel Sharkey – Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, University of Sheffield

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