What does it mean to be human? What makes technology scary? And can you really hug a robot? One documentary that aims to start answering these important social and philosophical questions is the charming, hilarious and poignant ‘How to Build a Robot’.

“What’s really lovely is this authenticity you see from members of the public”


Featuring the work of Bristol-based experimental robotic art and design studio Rusty Squid, the documentary will be airing this Wednesday on Channel 4 as part of a new series, ‘Rise of the Robots’.

For a sneak-peak preview of this inspiring documentary, check out the trailer below:


Exploring the alternative side of robotics, the film provides an intimate look into the process of building a robot. Then, abandoned on Bristol’s streets in the rain and the cold, this same robot films its own extraordinary adventure as it tries to emotionally connect with humans in a whole new way.

A social experiment

As part of the wider mission of Rusty Squid, the robot was built not solely for the sake of building something but as part of a social experiment on the impact technology is having on our sense of selves.

As David McGoran, Rusty Squid’s creative director, told us in a recent interview: “Many people feel like most robots are meant to be tools that are trying to trick us that they’re something else. But if our society could see that the intention behind the work is just to entertain, to move, to enlighten or to create meaning then people will embrace these machines into their lives a lot more and it’s going to be quite a profound, creative, cultural thing that happens.”

Robot friend:
the robot spent hours on Bristol’s streets
making friends with passers-by 


Premiered at Bristol’s creative hub Watershed earlier this week, the film provoked laughter, fascination and ignited a discussion from its audience into the real purpose of robots, and how they could be developed as cultural phenomena rather than as tools.

After the premiere, ‘How to Build a Robot” filmmaker James W. Newton told the audience: “What’s really lovely is this authenticity we saw from members of the public. When no one could see the camera, people would give in and let a bit of themselves out. As a filmmaker this was an extraordinary situation to be in… to give up control.

“Into the evening’s filming, as the social weather changed, we found that the atmosphere changed too and we got different types of people and different responses. But children were always the most responsive as they were completely trusting.

“The real us is there as a kid but we lose that trust over time which says a lot about what it means to be human.”

Steph Harris from the documentary’s production company Tuesday’s Child added: “We’ve only just scratched the surface with this film regarding new ways of interacting with people.”

You can join in the discussion by tuning in to social media for a live discussion of ‘How to Build a Robot’ as it airs on Channel 4 this Wednesday 29 November at 10.35pm. Get involved by following them on Twitter here: @RustySquidLtd or on the Rusty Squid Facebook page. To find out more about Rusty Squid, take a look at the Rusty Squid website.

You can also have your say by tweeting using the hashtags: #HowToBuildARobot, #RiseOfTheRobots and #RustySquid.