Why we are obsessed with MSI’s new robot exhibit

Is it just us, or were we supposed to be living on the moon right about now, with a robot butler attending to our every need?

If you go

Robot Revolution

Through Jan. 3

, kids 3-11

Museum of Science & Industry, 5700 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago


No, Rupert the Robot may not be bringing you mai tais by the (lunar) pool, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some pretty incredible advancements in the field of robotics since R2D2 and C-3PO first helped save the galaxy. And you can see them for yourself, thanks to the new Robot Revolution exhibit at the Museum of Science& Industry.

Robot Revolution features 40 different robots from around the world, most of which have some sort of guest interaction. Visitors can see robots that play 3-on-3 soccer, an insect-like robot that navigates an obstacle course, and even a robot baby seal, which has remarkably lifelike fur that visitors can touch.

“Nobody has really told the story of contemporary robotics in a family-friendly way,” says John Beckman, director of exhibit design and development at MSI. “We want to present a future that is humans and robots, not humans or robots.”

The exhibit is divided into four different areas–Cooperation, Smarts, Skills and Locomotion–that explore different aspects of robotics and offer hands-on opportunities. Visitors can see both high-tech and low-tech types of robots, plus maneuver them with iPads, buttons and mechanical arms.

Beckman says he’s excited about helping kids to envision the future and their own role in it. The exhibit delves into the various disciplines that inform robotics, from coding and math to engineering and design. It also encourages visitors to be hands-on, thanks to a Build-a-Bot station where they use kits to build their own robots, whether they follow the provided “recipes” or get a little creative all on their own.

“Robotics seems really complicated on the face of it, but it’s totally not,” Beckman says. “[Kids] can write a lot of the future.”

After all, if our kids won’t do it, we’re going to need someone to drop off the mai tais, right?

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