Oh, Russia, don’t ever change. While China, Japan, and the U.S. continue to make great strides in robotics, Russia…well, isn’t quite there yet. Throughout 2016 and 2017, robots kept allegedly escaping from Russian robotics labs and causing all sorts of tomfoolery, then last year, a Russian robotics company drew jeers online when it published a clearly staged video of a supposedly highly sophisticated robot saving a little girl from a falling bookcase. Just when we all thought the Russian robotics industry couldn’t get any more laughable, this next incident happened.
At Russia’s annual “PROJECT” scientific expo in the city of Yaroslavl, one robot in particular as a shining example of what Mother Russia has to offer the robotics world. “Boris,” as the robot is known, was shown walking around, giving fist bumps to expo attendees, performing mathematical calculations, and even dancing. The audience at the expo was blown away by Boris’ capabilities, and news outlets throughout Russia played featured clips of Boris in their coverage of the technology conference. There’s only one problem with Boris: he’s just some dude in a suit.
As soon as videos of Boris hit the news cycle, social media users noticed that the allegedly advanced robot sure didn’t appear all that advanced. Unlike notable humanoid robots like Honda’s ASIMO, Boris appeared to move just a little too humanlike, particularly when dancing or hugging attractive female expo-goers. A few even noticed just a bit of human skin poking out of the “robot’s” neck. Whoops. Most telling is the awful imitation robot voice the guy inside the suit tried to pull off. Come on, man. You’re not fooling anyone.
A few quick Google searches later, and social media users discovered Boris the “robot” bore a striking resemblance to a robot costume available online for 250,000 rubles, or around $4,000 USD. According to the costume’s manufacturer, “the design and technical execution of this costume create an almost complete illusion that you have a real robot. Therefore, everyone wants to make a selfie with him.” The illusion sure seems to have worked. While Russian news outlets and robotics makers are surely embarrassed by the recent mix-up, all the press is no doubt great exposure for the makers of the Boris costume.
If you can’t beat ’em, just give up and stick a guy in a suit.