World

Russia's Latest 'hi-tech' Robot Is Just a Man in a Suit

A “hi-tech” robot proudly displayed at a technology conference in Russia has turned out to be a man in a suit.

The apparently cutting edge robot was featured on Russian state television on Tuesday ahead of the Proyektoria technology forum, a youth-focused event held in the city of Yaroslavl some 150 miles from Moscow.

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But according to the Guardian, Russian media and social media users quickly spotted some of Robot Boris’s more suspicious characteristics and uncovered the truth.

State television channel Russia-24 featured the robot in a report from the forum, showing it performing onstage with two humans and impressively mimicking their movements. The channel told viewers that “Robot Boris has already learned to dance and he’s not that bad.”

But not everyone bought it. The TJournal tech website posted a list of questions about the dancing robot, asking where its external sensors were and why it seemed to make extra “unnecessary movements” while dancing.

The website also questioned why there was so little existing information on such an advanced project, and how developers had managed to develop the machine so quickly, considering the costs and intense research associated with such projects.

Most pointedly, TJournal also questioned why Boris appeared to be the perfect size for a human to fit inside.

The prescient observations proved to be right on the money—the cutting edge machine turned out to be an “Alyosha the Robot” costume made by a company called Show Robots, the Guardian explained.

At $3,800 each, the Alyosha costume is equipped with a microphone, tablet display and, according to the company, creates the “near total illusion that before you stands a real robot.”

A photograph published by MBKh Media—an agency founded by prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky—seemed to show the actor in the robot suit, his human head and hands clearly visible as someone helped tune up the costume.

MBKh noted that while the organizers of the technology forum did not try and claim the robot was real, Russia-24 did—whether intentionally or otherwise. In its report, a channel anchor said it was “entirely possible one of these [students] could dedicate himself to robotics.” The report continued, “Especially as at the forum they have the opportunity to look at the most modern robots.”

Boris’s robotic voice then said, “I know mathematics well but I also want to learn to draw,” before he began dancing to music.

The Guardian noted the report disappeared from Russia-24’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, but reappeared in the afternoon.

GettyImages-972039104 This file photo shows a humanoid robot at the 2018 CeBIT technology trade fair on June 12, 2018 in Hanover, Germany. Alexander Koerner/Getty Images