One of our favourite humanoid robots that we’ve designed and created is the first Mesmer we made completely from scratch ourselves – Fred.

Fred was a lifelike robot, whose look was modelled on – and was wondrously similar to – actor Tedroy Newell.

Fred was created as part of the PR campaign to promote the TV series Westworld. He was placed in a specially rigged London pub to interact with people that came in, much to the astonishment of the customers who’d only come in for a quick lunch.

Interaction that feels real

The interactions took place using our state-of-the-art Tinman technology, allowing Tedroy himself to speak through the robot and converse with customers in the pub.

For people seeing such a realistically human-like robot for the first time, there is an expectation that it will talk to them. After all, it looks so lifelike, why shouldn’t it speak in a lifelike way?

TinMan allows these realistic conversations to take place. It replaces the monotonous droning of an AI automated voice — which can only say a few stock phrases — and allows Fred to have fluid conversations.

This ensured Fred not only looked true to life but sounded that way too, giving the unsuspecting punters an awe-inspiring conversation to remember. Plus, they had the added value of listening to Tedroy Newell’s pleasing voice whenever Fred made a reply.  

Being able to converse fluently with the robot offers a unique level of social interaction that can’t be achieved with more basic AI. Fred could absorb a wealth of context, convey emotion, and create in-the-moment entertainment through the way he interacted with people. Most people presumed Fred was talking using AI and some were even more amazed to later learn they’d been conversing with a human. Ultimately, this technology allows for meaningful robot-human interaction, and at the end of the day who doesn’t want to talk to a robot in a pub?

On the frontline of innovation

Things have come a long way since the days of Fred. Innovation travels fast in robotics and we strive to be at the forefront of those innovations.

But some things have remained the same. The way that we scan people and create moulds hasn’t changed. We still use photogrammetery techniques to scan people and 3D printing to make sure the skin of the robots exactly matches the mechanics underneath.

As was the case with Fred, we still use silicone for the skin so it can move and be animated. This differs from a lot of other lifelike models, such as the ones at Madame Tussauds, which are made from wax or fiberglass.

But these wax models don’t have to move and talk like Fred and our other Mesmer robots. A traditional fiberglass moulded silicone skin on a moving, talking face like Fred’s would warp and subsequently not match the mechanics underneath. So instead we developed our own process for making robot skin (strangely you couldn’t pick it up in the supermarket) and we’ve used it on our Mesmer robots ever since.

After they were famous

As innovative as Fred was, he was a first-generation Mesmer and we’re now currently working on the fourth generation of more advanced Mesmer.

Because of these constant innovations we are making in robotics, Fred has now retired. Just like James Dean and many other great actors before him, Fred’s acclaimed acting career was illustrious but short.

While our tech has come a long way and we’re excited about the next generation of lifelike Mesmer robots, Fred will always be one of our favourite Mesmer robots, the first one we built from scratch. Looking to entertain and inspire awe? Find out how the next generation of Mesmer can help you gather a crowd.