The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Science fiction stories concerning artificial intelligence have been around for a long time, in fiction and film. Generally speaking, such stories have presented a fairly simplistic, and pessimistic, Frankenstein-esque scenario, which depicts the creation inevitably turning on its creator, humanity itself, with exceptions such as the I, Robot stories of SF guru Isaac Asimov. A more complex and morally ambiguous investigation into the rise of a new artificial “species” is needed, as it will be a key topic of debate during the decades ahead. Issues relating to how we define both life and sentience – especially in terms of the moral rights and social implications of such endeavours – seem set to become not only inevitable but vital for future survival.

As real-world scientists get ever closer to succeeding in the creation of self-aware “robotic lifeforms” – and leading figures in the scientific community, such as Stephen Hawking, warn that going down this path is a big mistake – it appears what was once fantastical speculation is set to become our new reality. The cultural zeitgeist reflects this, as always. Themes relating to the rise of artificial intelligence are appearing more and more frequently in TV shows and in movies — and as the artistic “debate” continues, hopefully the simplistic view of the issues involved will be largely abandoned for a more complex exploration of what it means to be not simply “human” or “robot”, but alive and aware.

Several recent films give notice of the trend.  Ex Machina (UK-2015; dir. Alex Garland) is one, a trailer for which appeared at the end of 2014 and has recently been ungraded to an International version in preparation for the movie’s 10 April 2015 US release:

It will be interesting to see where this goes, beyond its obvious exploration of the nature of relationships in human society and how this might be affected by the existence of AIs. Ex Machina is, on this level, similar to Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), even if the general tone and approach is very different:

Just released is Chappie (2015), Neill Blomkamp’s fully robotic riff on Robocop, as he uses an action-film format to explore the development of a self-aware artificial intelligence in the titular character, and notes the impact of environment in that development.

Finally, another prominent AI-driven movie, one set to have a much bigger worldwide audience than all the above, is Avengers: Age of Ultron (US-2015; dir. Joss Whedon), also set for an April release. This one – inevitably, given the superhero context – is very much in the Frankenstein mode, though again it will be intriguing to see how Whedon develops the theme, and, of course, how he depicts Ultron himself. If nothing else, there is a certain believability to the robotic super-villain’s motivations, if we leave morality out of the mix, but where that leads in the Marvel Cinematic Universe may be different from its origins in graphic novel form.

 More to come soon.

Archival Footage of the Martian War

This is brilliant. Directors Christian Johnson and Steve Maher have taken genuine archival footage of World War 1 and, using CGI and some re-enactment, have turned it into archival footage of the War of the Worlds (which we all know happened sometime around 1897 and the turn of the century, as chronicled by H.G. Wells).

Click through to Vimeo to watch it larger.

Source: via Steam Fantasy

Nazi Giant Robot!

Check out this impressive short giant robot film titled 第二次世界大戦で汎用人型決戦兵器が使われていたら? (前編)– which translates (roughly) as “Purpose-Built Humanoid Decisive Battle Weapon When Used in the Second World War? (Part 1)”.

And here is Part 2:

Del Toro’s Next Film: Now with Added Robots

So apparently Guillermo Del Toro’s next film, Pacific Rim, which is currently in production, will not only feature giant monsters but also giant robots to fight them — mecha style. For more information, see this Undead Backbrain article.

Origins: The Search for a Place

Here’s another truly excellent piece of robotic animation, created as a senior thesis at Ringling College of Art + Design by Robert Showalter. Showalter did everything except the music, which is by Cody Cook.

At under three minutes, with no words and luminous visuals, Origins presents us with a profound exploration of Belonging.

War of the Worlds: Goliath Looks Spectacular

It’s been some time since I posted to Robot War Espresso (I’ve been busy) and even longer since anyone much has heard anything of the animated steam-punk-inspired sequel to H.G. Wells’ classic invasion tale, War of the Worlds. Directed by Joe Pearson, War of the Worlds: Goliath (which we last saw here) is looking spectacular — a 3D anime-style epic that envisages the Martian invasion as a full-on conflict, more equal now than the first invasion was in 1900, thanks to defensive machines back-engineered from the wreckage of the first wave of Martian Tripods. Thanks to Quiet Earth, we can see what advances in production the past year has brought:

View it here.


In 1900, the Earth was attacked by ruthless invaders from the planet Mars. The Martian’s 80 ft tall, heat-ray spewing, Tripod battle machines laid waste to the planet, but the invaders ultimately fell prey to Earth’s tiny bacteria.

Fourteen years later, Man has rebuilt his shattered world, in large part by utilizing captured Martian technology. Equipped with giant, steam-powered Tripod battle machines, the international rapid reaction force, A.R.E.S., is Mankind’s first line of defense against the return of the rapacious Martian invaders. Based in a massive fortress complex at the south end of Manhattan Island, the young warriors of A.R.E.S. train under the leadership of Secretary of War, Theodore Roosevelt, and the grim General Kushnirov.

And return the Martians do. The rematch finds the multinational squad of the A.R.E.S. battle Tripod Goliath on the front-lines of a vicious interplanetary offensive when the Martian invaders launch their second invasion using even more advanced alien technology. In the crucible of combat, this young team helming the mighty Goliath will be tested to the limits of their endurance and courage as they fight for Mankind’s very survival under the onslaught of an implacable enemy.


Official website

Source: Quiet Earth via Avery Guerra. Written by Robert Hood

A Day in Paris

A strange robotic tourist takes in the sights of Paris in this amazingly seamless video from Benoît Millot, which achieves great visual clarity in its photography and 3D FX.

A day in PARIS from Benoit MILLOT on Vimeo.


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