Real Humans: Are the robots taking over?

In a hit Swedish TV drama, soon to be remade in English, lifelike robots do the all the dirty work. Pure science fiction, wonders Gerard Gilbert – or a glimpse of the future?

With The Killing and Borgen finished, Wallander having bowed out on BBC4 last Saturday and just one more series of The Bridge, the sun seems to be setting on a golden age of Scandinavian television. There is, however, one show that has been denied to us in the UK and that's the Swedish sci-fi drama Real Humans, despite two series having been screened to great acclaim in at least other 50 countries.

Real Humans imagines an alternate version of modern-day Sweden in which life-like androids, known as "hubots", take care of the domestic and workplace drudgery. They have flawless skin, glossy hair and unnaturally bright (usually blue) eyes – and they look rather like Valeria Lukyanova, the cosmetically enhanced Ukrainian model and YouTube sensation known as the "real-life Barbie". As the sheepish husband of a hard-working lawyer tells his children as he unpacks "Anita", a similarly plastic-fantastic rechargeable domestic servant: "I haven't told Mum yet." Mum's comment, on clapping eyes on Anita, is short and to the point: "No way!"

Husbands and wives threatened by the arrival of these attractive and biddable cuckoos aren't the only ones resisting the hubots, and a local meathead, his job threatened by their growing use in factories, asks one android: "How does it feel to be related to a vacuum cleaner?" before venting his only too human frustration. In the meantime, some of the robots are becoming so sophisticatedly programmed by their owners (via a USB port in the backs of their necks) that they are developing free will and childlike emotions.

Real Humans (the title comes from a campaign group protesting against the hubots) is funny and thought-provoking, and this autumn the British production company Kudos, makers of Spooks, starts shooting an English-language version. "Exploring themes of love, discrimination and integration, this thrilling, beautifully written series allows us to get under the skin of what it means to be human," declares Jane Featherstone, executive producer for Kudos, in a statement.

Putting to one side the question of whether we need an English-language remake and why we can't make do with the subtitled Swedish version (OK, because not enough people will watch it), developments in the field of artificial intelligence seem to suggest that the world of Real Humans might not be so far in the distant dystopian future.

Earlier this month, for example, a programme called "Eugene Goostman" convinced enough judges at the Royal Society in London that it was a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy that it supposedly became the first computer ever to pass the Turing test – so named after pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing, who devised it in 1950 as a gauge of artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, the Japanese firm Softbank unveiled a "human-like" robot called Pepper, which it says can read human emotions. Pepper apparently uses a "cloud-based artificial intelligence system" that allows it to analyse gestures, expressions and voice tones, and Softbank claims that people can communicate with it "just like they would with friends and family", which shouldn't be too hard if your family consists largely of grunting teenagers. Anyway, Pepper can be yours (from next year, at least) for 198,000 yen, or just over £1,000, and he's not in the least sexy, so no problems inviting him or her (it has womanly hips) into the home.

With its rapidly ageing population and falling birth rate, Japan is one of the world's biggest robot markets, as it looks to offset labour shortages and the cost of looking after elderly relatives, and Honda has been developing its own robot, Asimo, which played football with US President Barack Obama on his recent visit to Japan. Asimo had the build and speed of an overgrown, hyperactive 12-year-old, and Obama seemed unsure whether to pat it on the head or run for his life. It's these conflicting impulses that makes Real Humans so compelling; let's hope it gets a British broadcast soon.

Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Arts and Entertainment
Kate Bush: 'I'm going to miss everyone so much'
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?