Don’t believe everything you see. What at least one news crew thought was an impressive example of an artificial intelligence robot in Russia has turned out to be just a man wearing a robot costume.
Russian state television showed off the country’s technological expertise with footage of a robot named Boris, who danced and sang for students attending a technology forum. But there was something suspicious about the machine.
It didn’t take Rossiya 24 viewers and journalists long to notice the AI in question exhibited some very human-like gestures and behaviours. It was later revealed that Boris was actually a man wearing a robot suit that was created by a Russian company.
While the robot performed on stage, a news presenter commented, “At the forum, there’s the opportunity to see state-of-the-art robots. Boris the Robot has already learned to dance, and not bad at that,” indicating that the machine was very advanced.
Video footage shows the machine speaking in a robotic voice and its face displaying a variety of coloured lights. The robot is quoted as saying: “I’m good at maths, but now I want to study art and musical composition.”
Journalists were skeptical about the presentation. The ruse was exposed on the internet after backstage photos revealed a human inside the machine. The telltale sign was a gap between the robot’s head and suit.
Before long, bloggers identified a website that sells robot suits identical to the one that was displayed in the news clip. A company called Show Robots makes a costume dubbed “Alyosha the Robot.” It costs over $5,000CAD and is reportedly so realistic that it creates the “near illusion that before you stands a real robot.”
The Proyektoria technology forum is held annually for “future intellectual leaders of Russia,” and organizers explained on their website that they never intended for people to think the robot was real.
It’s unclear whether the state television footage meant to follow suit. One of the reporters for the news clip commented, “It’s entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics, especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”