Boris the Robot – touted as “one of the most advanced robots in the world” by the Russian state news network, Rossiya 24 – actually turned out to be a man inside a ‘Robot Alyosha’ costume manufactured by a company called ‘Shows
The presumed-robot was paraded on stage at this year’s “Proyektoria ” youth forum, an annual Russian technology event that showcases the country’s latest products, intended for an audience of hundreds of school children.
Embarrassed at being hoodwinked into believing that the country has managed to develop one of the world’s most high-tech robots that could likely encourage aspiring students to “commit themselves to robotics,” the news network had to retract its report.
However, the video was back online, soon enough, with Rossiya 24 claiming that its anchor Arseny Kondratyev was simply playing along and was not fooled at any point into believing it was a real robot, as several reports suggested
Here’s the clarification from Kondratyev:
“I was just completely sure that everyone, by analogy with Santa Claus, would definitely recognize an animator in a suit.
“But the whole project was created for children and practically all modern technologies and developments there are presented in the form of projects, such as the railway, which is presented in a model on which a small train rides.
“After all, no one doubted that with this example the guys would study real projects of a real railway, interchanges and trains on remote control.
“That’s the same with this robot.”
Footages of the event, viewed around the world, showed Boris walking, talking, doing math, and even executing some cool dance moves.
“I know mathematics well, but I also want to know how to draw and write music!” Boris said, to the excitement of the young audience.
He then danced to Russian rave band Little Big’s popular song Skibidi, which had gone viral after its video release in October.
Local reporters and bloggers were quick to notice several anomalies that couldn’t have been consistent with a real robot.
For example, the suit was a perfect size, complete with proportionate limbs, for a human to fit inside.
Plus, the dance moves looked very much like those of a human burdened with a ten-kilogram costume, rather than a robot that has machine-learned how to dance.
The conspicuously absent external sensors was another big giveaway, but what really sealed the deal in favor of the robot actually being a costume-clad actor were pictures that clearly showed part of a human neck through a chink between the head and body of the suit.
Here’s one of the tell-tale pictures that accompanied a tweet in Russian whose English translation read:
“The first day of the forum “Projector” opened 6 copyright lessons of the best teachers of Russia,”
— Вести-Ярославль (@VestiYaroslavl) December 11, 2018
It looks like the media and others have read too much into it, with some going to the extent of calling it “fake news.”
Had that been the case, MBH Media would not have published a photograph showing a man in the Robot Alyosha suit ahead of the Tuesday forum in Yaroslavl, a city 160 miles northeast of Moscow.
“Here is the same “modern robot” – an exclusive photo of the preparations for the Putin youth forum in Yaroslavl,” tweeted MBH.
“This is not a robot, we understood perfectly that this is a game, a small performance,” said the deputy minister of education of the Russian Federation.
“Each of our lessons represented a small performance, in which the child just had to be dragged,” the minister added, going on to say that “despite the form, these are serious topics” and “the problem of how the robot and the person coexist.”
Arseny Semenov, one of the forum members, said that an anthropomorphic robot may look like a human but can’t move like one “at the moment,” adding that the ones that can are in the developmental stage and restricted to laboratories – at least for now.
“It was clear from the movements, by how he behaves on the stage that he is a man,” Semenov said.
Mikhail Bitter, another forum member, said that the robot’s walk was enough to give the game away.
“I looked at his walk, it became clear that this is a man,” he said.
“Why not? It was interesting, it was also possible, such progress could be said as part of an entertaining event,” Bitter justified
“It was such a high-quality performance, it pleased most of the audience,” he added.
“The design and technical execution of this costume create an almost complete illusion that you have a real robot,” claims the manufacturer, which is offering a ten percent discount on the 250,000-ruble (about $3,800) costume, on its website.
“Therefore, everyone wants to make a selfie with him,” says the company.
Some of the other robot costumes the company manufactures include “Optimus Prime,” “Transformer Bumblebee,” “Iron Man, Diablo,” “LED Luminoid,” among others.
Not only that, but the company also organizes robot shows for different events, boasting more than “20 units of robots and a wide selection of show programs.”
“Our robots will surprise everyone!”