15. Robotics – Robots in Disguise

This episode of the podcast is concerned with the 2007 film from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, ‘Transformers’.


And concerned is the adjective of choice for this film, in every sense of the word. Concerned with the sheer number of continuity mistakes and factual errors; concerned that director Michael Bay has turned a beloved children’s toy into a misogynistic, classless, charisma vacuum; and most importantly of all concerned that there have been three sequels in the franchise, with another 3 to come before 2019. Still, enough about the film. What about the science, and specifically, what about the robots?


Thankfully we have Dr Matthew Southgate, research engineer at Manchester Metropolitan University, on hand to help us to pick through the minefield of robotic questions. What is it that constitutes a robot exactly? Having covered both Cyborgs and Artificial Intelligence in previous episodes of the podcast, how are robots different? Are they?

We also talk to Dr Southgate about some of the ethics involved in the construction and use of robots, and have a look into the fascinating and rapidly developing world of Robot Sports. This means of course that the much-loved  Robot Wars gets a mention, which is a great excuse (if ever one was needed) to show this clip. For reasons that we are still not entirely sure of Sam spends an inordinate amount of time discussing Cristiano Ronaldo’s’ six pack, and James’ car gets yet another mention (did you know that it was electric?).


To anyone still in any doubt or not about whether to watch this film, don’t. You would be better served banging your head against a brick wall for 143 minutes, and would almost certainly kill fewer brain cells in the process.

In the upcoming Extras we talk at length with Dr Southgate about the advent of the autonomous car, and what that might mean for our daily commute. Make sure to listen out for that conversation, but in the meantime here is a little taster of a rather special patent from Google.



Listen to these related episodes:

2. AI – More Human Than Human

In this episode, we talk to Martyn Amos, a Professor of Novel Computation at Manchester Metropolitan University, and find out how close we are to killer sentient robots, specifically in relation to Ridley Scott’s 1982 film ‘Blade Runner’.

13. Bionics – Never Be The Same Again

Would you like the ability to control electronics with your mind? Store data on your internal flash memory? Want to be a cyborg? In this episode we discuss the 1989 Jean-Claude van Damme film ‘Cyborg’ and ask what makes a cyborg? Where is the technology going? And are we headed for an ethical blackhole?