The best robot photos of 2023, from fashion shows to Hollywood strikes

Spot the robot dog performs with a model at Paris Fashion Week

Francois Durand/Getty Images

The vast majority of robots have never made it out of their laboratories, but there were plenty of signs in 2023 that robots are beginning to have their moment in the sun. These photos showcase some of the most eye-catching machines from the past year, and also tell the story of a class of technology that is becoming increasingly visible in everyday life.

Spot takes to the catwalk

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog Spot, first seen in 2016, may seem old hat, but its real-world applications have grown since it became commercially available in 2019. The New York Police Department has bought two Spot robots, to be deployed in situations that present a high danger to humans, while e-commerce giant Otto Group has employed the robots in its warehouses for equipment inspections. This year, Spot could also be seen removing a model’s jacket as part of a Paris Fashion Week show.

Robot dog Gato joins striking writers and actors at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Actors and writers (and robots) unite in strike against artificial intelligence

This robot dog, called Gato, didn’t have a say in whether it joined a demonstration outside Paramount Studios in Los Angeles, as part of the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strike. But future robots might, if artificial intelligence gets sufficiently advanced. Advanced AI was one of the motivating factors for the Hollywood strike, with actors and writers worried they would be replaced with AI-generated scripts and virtual performers. The unions reached an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers in November.

Adam, a robot barista and bartender, makes drinks at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

Steve Marcus/Reuters

Automation comes for restaurant and cafe workers

If you take a stroll down Manhattan Avenue in New York, you will walk by Botbar Coffee, the city’s first robotic coffee shop, and find Adam, an egg-shaped robo-barista, ready to take your order. Adam can also make other drinks, like bubble tea, as he demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January. Automated food and drink service isn’t an inevitability, though — this year, the San Francisco-based automated pizza truck company Zume closed down after nearly $500 million in investment.

Humanoid robots at the World Robot Conference in Beijing

Song Yu/VCG via Getty Images

The gap between human and humanoid robot narrows

The “uncanny valley” – when small differences between humans and human-like robots or simulations evoke unsettling feelings ­– very much still exists, but robot designers are getting better at some of the trickier details, like skin, facial expressions and eyeballs. Here, a group of humanoid robot heads from Chinese company EX Robots show off their emotional range at the 2023 World Robot Conference in Beijing.

Amy, a robotic artwork created by Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven

NurPhoto SRL / Alamy Stock Photo

Will we see humanoid robots in the real world?

This humanoid robot, called Amy, is a visual artwork from Dutch artist Dries Verhoeven. Amy works in a speakeasy-style pharmacy, offering up drugs and analgesics to help cope with reality. While pharmacists don’t have too much to worry about in the immediate future, humanoid robots aiming to help people cope with potentially depressing realities are becoming increasingly common, such as companions for lonely elderly people.

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