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Madame Tussauds Is Making Life-Like Robots of Celebrities And It's Just Too Freaky

CARLY CASSELLA
18 MAY 2018

The novelty of Madame Tussaud's wax museum wore off decades ago, but now, the tourist attraction is getting a futuristic makeover.

The company Engineered Arts, which concentrates on developing and selling humanoid and semi-humanoid robots, was commissioned by the museum last year to create the very first intelligent wax figure.

 

This isn't just a robot that moves, either. It's one that senses people and changes its behavior accordingly.

Just this month, the Madam Tussauds in Shanghai unrolled its first interactive robot figure – the popular Chinese actor and singer Jing Boran and his shoulder-riding sidekick Wuba.

Visitors to the museum can now interact with the robotic Boran, who is programmed to respond to the presence of people and even make eye contact.

"This is not just animatronic, this is robotics, so we're bringing in senses, we're bringing in perception, face recognition, person detection, age and gender recognition," said Engineered Arts director Will Jackson.

The whole production was no easy feat, and required experts from a whole variety of disciplines.

The artists started by creating a clay bust of Boran. The problem is, you can't animate clay, so the next step was to get the artwork in a different material.

The programmers scanned the sculpture from all angles and used computer software to create a 3D print of the head and neck in flexible silicone.

Then, the engineers were in charge of creating a motor and a magnet for the head and a metal body.

 

"We've got a lot of movement into these two characters," said Jackson.

"For Jing we've got this complex neck mechanism that's very, very fluid and very human-like in its movement, and we've also got a lot of animation into his eyes."

The result is some seriously life-like behavior from Jing. But as cool as that is, the robot isn't considered AI; it is only considered to have AI capabilities.

Still, at the pace of technology these days, it isn't hard to imagine a future where you can enter a museum and interact with just about anybody's AI doppelgänger.

Madame Tussauds has announced that Tom Hardy is next on their list, and this time you will be able to feel the heat coming off of his skin and his actual heart beat.

Flirting with your celebrity crush has never been easier... or freakier.

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