Yesterday, during the opening of Russia’s annual “PROJECT” scientific forum in the city of Yaroslavl, the audience got to see Boris, a highly-advanced robot that major news channel Russia24 called “the country’s most modern robot”.
Only Boris wasn’t really all that advanced, or even a robot, for that matter.
Very similar in appearance to Honda’s famous Asimo humanoid robot, Boris can reportedly walk and talk, do mathematical calculations and even dance, feats he demonstrated on the stage of the “PROJECT” forum, on December 11. The audience, made up primarily of young students, was blown away by the Russian robot’s advanced capabilities, as were several news outlets, including Russia24, which dedicated a news segment to Boris, showcasing his performance at the forum and calling it “Russia’s most modern robot”.
However, there were a few things that didn’t quite add up about Boris, and internet users were quick to point them out. First, everyone wondered where Boris’ sensors were located, as its head seemed to only feature LED lights for eyes and mouth. How could it perform all these feats, and be aware of its surroundings without any sensors?
Then there was some controversy about its speech capabilities. Boris didn’t feature any speakers and there was no microphone anywhere close to it when it spoke, but a robotic voice could be heard from the speakers in the hall whenever it was asked a question. A lot of people were convinced that Boris’ voice was in fact pre-recorded.
Boris was supposed to be the most advanced robot ever created in Russia, and yet no had ever heard of it. How had scientists managed to perfect it without ever releasing any information about their work. Boston Dynamics, the famous US developing advanced robots had gradually released footage of its creations at various stages, but no one could even find any mention of an advanced robot being developed in Russia.
People also noticed that during its dance routine, Boris was making these unnecessary movements with different parts of its body. The whole routine looked more like the awkward movements of a man struggling to appear robotic than the programmed motions of an actual robot.
Finally, the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind was ‘why did Boris look so bulky compared to other humanoid robots?’. Asimo and other advanced robots featured slim, hinged arms and legs, as well as a very slim waist, but Boris looked like a person could easily fit inside it.
With so many questions surrounding the surprise unveiling of this “advanced robot”, it didn’t really come as a surprise to anyone that Boris wasn’t actually a robot at all. A simple Google search of “robotic suit” (in Russian) revealed that the humanoid robot was really just a commercially available robot suit called the “Alesha Robot Costume“. It looks just like Boris and it can be yours for 250,000 rubles ($3,765).
The shocking resemblance between the so-called advanced robot unveiled yesterday and the Alesha suit is solid enough proof that news outlets like Russia24 made a blunder, but they could claim that it was an honest mistake. However, TJournal recently posted a photo of Boris the robot from behind which clearly shows a man’s neck inside the suit. It was originally shared on Twitter by Yaroslavl News, whose footage Russia24 showed during their program, so many are claiming that Russia24 cannot say that it was deceived by the organizers.
Following the revelation of Boris’ true nature, Russia24 has removed the video news segment from its YouTube channel, but the media outlet has yet to offer any explanation for the blunder.