A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Robots 3D is National Geographic's short but informative IMAX exploration of advances in robotics science. There's no iffy material in the documentary, which is narrated by Simon Pegg as the voice of a humanoid robot introducing viewers to different robots (from cutting-edge labs around the world) and how they're each trying to master an aspect of human life (walking, pouring, catching, throwing, picking things up and setting things down, etc.). All kids -- particularly those interested in technology, robotics, or just science in general -- will be amazed, but to really grasp some of the language and principles, kids will probably need to be in second grade and up.
What's the story?
ROBOTS 3D is a National Geographic-produced documentary about advancements in the field of creating humanoid robots -- which can approximate human movement and even reasoning, expressions, and behavior. The film opens with Shakespeare's famous "What a piece of work is a man!" Hamlet soliloquy; then a humanoid robot called RoboThespian (voiced by British actor-director Simon Pegg) introduces viewers to the various ways in which it's quite difficult for robots to act, move, and think like humans. By taking viewers on a tour of several robotics labs and showing how various humanoid robots work, the movie emphasizes how tough it is for scientists to get robots to do things like walk, balance, carry, throw, pour, set a table, etc. The documentary also explores how humanoid robots could (and in some cases already do) help humans perform tasks as varied as waiting tables and cleaning homes to assisting astronauts and surgeons.
Is it any good?
Robots 3D is a fascinating documentary that's just short enough to grip the attention of even younger elementary schoolers. That's thanks to Pegg's educational and entertaining narration, coupled with all the shots of robots and the scientists who work on them in labs across the country. Considering the popularity of animated movies like Big Hero 6 and WALL-E, it's easy to see the appeal of robots like Honda's ASIMO, dubbed the "world's most advanced humanoid robot," who can wow audiences with demonstrations of pouring into a cup, walking, kicking a ball, climbing, and even making arm gestures.
Of course, Robots 3D is overwhelmingly positive, opting not to delve into anything too complicated or ambiguous -- like the ethical implications of robots that can perform service tasks like humans. This is all about the awe-inspiring wonder of how even with (presumably) hundreds of millions of dollars and years of scientific research, humanoid robots still can't master everything that comes so easily to able-bodied humans. Although Robots 3D is short enough to keep younger viewers entertained, some of the commentary about the way our bodies work is best suited to middle and upper elementary-aged kids and older, as it may go over the head of the littlest robot fans.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of science documentaries aimed at kids and families. Are kids the ideal audience for educational, science-oriented films? Why or why not?
What's Robots 3D's message about what it means to be human? Are most of these robots trying to act like a human in general or in specific ways?
Which robot most impressed you? What do you think will happen if robots can learn to perfect different aspects of human movement and thought?
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