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Humans, robots bust a move

Dancing robots are debuting on Helsinki's art scene. A new dance work in the Finnish capital features a pair of human dancers and two industrial-looking partners.

Video: Mies ja teollisuusrobotti tanssivat.
Choreographer Thomas Freundlich brings humans and robots together in an industrial dance, but don't tell these heavy-duty performers to smile when dancing.

Heavy industry is rarely romanticised in modern art, but choreographer Thomas Freundlich is a fan of his steely dancers -- two robots on vacation from their day job painting cars.

Freundlich's latest work, Human Interface, is being staged at the Zodiak dance centre in Helsinki's Cable Factory.

The idea that our creations will turn against us is a common science fiction theme, but for now these man-made machines are our allies. This is reassuringly represented in Freundlich's futuristic dance productions.

Four years ago he tangoed with a robot, and he has been enamoured with their movements ever since. The Human Interface builds on superhumanly precise yet also surprisingly lifelike robot movements.

Freundlich says we have an evolutionary need to humanize machines -- even ones that are powerful and potentially dangerous.

"Robots are extremely precise. They repeat their movements within a twentieth of a millimetre, always stopping where programmed," he said.

Programmers have given the two intelligent machines their own distinct -- yet harmless -- personalities. The smaller of the pair is more "robot-like" while the larger performer has more fluid, organic movements, according to Freundlich.

While dancing machines may not have two left feet, they haven't outsmarted us... yet.

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