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Robotarium X, The First Robot Zoo

Updated on June 27, 2007

Considering all the toys that have come out that look and even act like animals, isn’t it about time that we create a menagerie that is devoted to putting them on display?

The Robotarium X is just the place, and is a display at Jardim Central, Alverca (Vila Franca de Xira) in Portugal. This Robot Zoo is a yellow cage-like contraption with glass enclosure that is filled with robots. All 45 of these robots are solar powered, or photovoltaic, and represent 14 different “species”. Many of them look like modified Roomba mini-vacuum cleaners, and some look large and spidery. The robots are not too large, and their habitat is nothing more than a blank floor and a few rocks. I suppose there is no point giving the robots an authentic habitat unless you can make it look like Cybertron.

Robotarium X is not really a robot zoo as it is more of an art project. The artist, Leonel Moura, has an impressive robotic resume including a robot painter and a robot exhibit with New York’s Museum of Natural History. His Robot Zoo is certainly the first of its type, and perhaps this exhibit makes a statement of how different lifeforms, albeit artificial, can live together in piece and harmony.

After all, there has been no reports of aggression amongst the robots, but then again, is it even in their programming? I suppose that if we were to put humans in a zoo, there would be immediate Great Escape methods to try and bust out, but these are robots. I have no idea if these little robots can “think”.

Even though this is technically an art project, you cannot deny that this is a definite tourist trap. Maybe they will figure out a way so tourists can somehow “feed” the robots. Maybe they can do what they do at Sea World and do “animal shows”. Except I don’t think that would be too impressive. One of the reasons those whale and seal shows work is because we are impressed not only with the animals but the training required to make them perform. In a robot show, the robots would perform just as they were programmed to do, which is hardly impressive.

Something tells me that the Robotarium X isn’t the last robot zoo that will ever be created. Personally, I am surprised this exhibit didn’t end up at EPCOT or something of that venue. I suppose as the robots get smarter, people will complain of the morality of putting robots in cages.

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