PITTSBURGH - Will robots take over the world? "Yes, and the revolution is set for a week from Saturday," Andy says, half his face turning bright red, his eyes a beady orange.
"OK, I'm kidding, it's this Thursday," he laughs, his arms gesticulating wildly, long, spindly fingers bending in and out, purple Converse sneakers covering his leaden feet.
But he's kidding yet again. After all, Andy is just a robot, one of many at a new permanent robotics exhibit at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Science Center.
Roboworld opens Saturday in the globe-shaped museum overlooking the Ohio River. It's being touted by the center as the world's largest permanent robotics exhibit. The American Association of Museums, which has a database of past, present, and future exhibits at science centers nationwide, says it knows of no other like it.
Sean Smith, spokesman for the Association of Science-Technology Centers, which has members in 44 countries, said the Pittsburgh exhibit would be unique because of its scale.
"This is probably the first place that a lot of people will be exposed to some of the things they're going to see," Smith said.
Part of the goal of the interactive hands-on exhibit is to get children interested in robotics, possibly persuading them to pursue an education in the field and stay in Pittsburgh to fill hundreds of job openings.
The Pittsburgh area - a steel powerhouse whose fortunes tumbled with the collapse of heavy industry - has more than 60 robotics firms. Carnegie Mellon University is internationally renowned for robotics, and the lesser-known California University of Pennsylvania also has a successful program.
The high-tech and robotics companies need to fill posts even as many other parts of the country suffer mass layoffs.
"We know that technology and science and math jobs are going to be growing in the future in Pittsburgh and nationwide," said Mike Marcus, the center's spokesman.
So the exhibit showcases everything from a prescription-filling robotic arm used by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to Athina, a "chat-bot" so talkative she had to be shut up so workers could put the finishing touches on the exhibit.
The $3.5 million exhibit also features robot foosball, developed in a partnership between the German-based Gauselmann Group and the University of Freiburg. Also, by Nuvation in San Jose, Calif., there's an air hockey-playing robot so complex a screen above the goal line shows the algorithms and equations calculated by the machine so it can predict where the puck will be in three bounces.
Can you win? You're lucky if you score.
Then there's the center's basketball-playing robot - part of the museum's mobile exhibit created in 1996 - which has been enhanced to include a backboard for visitors to compete against the massive metal dunkster.
And don't miss Pong, a blue-eyed, bushy-browed robot created by IBM that mimics facial expressions, solves math problems, and could possibly beat contestants at the national spelling bee.
The exhibit is also the official home of Carnegie Mellon University's Robot Hall of Fame, including Robby from the 1956 movie Forbidden Planet and Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. Of course, it would be no Hall of Fame without Star Wars favorites C-3PO and his sidekick, R2-D2. An interactive exhibit allows visitors to take pictures with the famous robots and e-mail them to themselves.
Finally, there is "robot art."
Created by Ian Ingram, the Lunar Rover has light shine through real Swiss cheese onto a large white disc, creating an image of the moon. Simultaneously, a camera beams into the center's third-floor aquarium. The robot perceives passing fish as extraterrestrial life. This image makes the moon turn and also moves little boots attached to the robot's arm. Together, they create an image of a rotating moon with feet walking on its surface.
By its nature, robotics is timeless and multigenerational, yet the technology is changing at lightning speed, said Kim Amey, the exhibit's project manager.
So even though it's permanent, the exhibit will be constantly updated with the latest innovations and to ensure the robots have relevant knowledge