• Sweden's news in English
 

Sci-fi robot drama new Swedish global success

Published: 18 Jul 2014 09:07 GMT+02:00

He has no special interest in science fiction, but the creator of a Swedish sci-fi drama that pits robots against humans has struck a nerve among viewers.

"Real Humans", by screenwriter-actor Lars Lundström, stars humanoids called "hubots", a word mixing humans and robots.

They are merchandise, bought and sold, run on electricity, but can think, make choices, have sex with humans, even fight for their own freedom and rights.

Their owners want to keep them in their place as docile, high-tech consumer products, be it servants, workers, sex partners, even replacements for lost family members.

Other people, a political movement called "Real Humans", feel all has gone too far. They want to return to a society without hubots.

For Lundström, "the main premise in 'Real Humans' is: what is a human being?"

The lines between real and robot are deliberately blurred to ask: is it possible to build a human? What is a soul? Are we just some kind of biological machines?

"It is a tough question to answer, almost impossible, and it is very rare we are confronted with questions about the kind of creatures we are," he told AFP.

The series, set in a parallel, modern-day Sweden, came out in 2012 and was quickly bought up in more than 50 countries from France to South Korea to Australia.

It also caught the eye of American xBox Entertainment Studios and Britain's Channel 4 who are developing an English language adaptation called "Humans" set to premier in 2015, according to the entertainment bible Variety.

Lundström cannot even remember how he came up with the idea.

"Maybe it was after seeing one of those human-like robots they have made in Japan, but I really don't know," he told AFP.

"I just thought it was a great starting point for a drama series, something that could generate a lot of story."

The show is chock full of action, intrigue and romance: programmers breaching legal protocols to make the hubots even more human-like, others -- derided as "hubbies" -- breaking taboos on having sex with hubots.

Lundström's plots are less science-driven than metaphors for contemporary social issues -- prejudice, minorities, immigration, slavery, relationships.

It's been described as everything from creepy to startling to superb sci-fi.

"This Swedish show about an abducted sex robot is creepy as hell," sci-fi expert Charlie Jane Anders said in December 2012, adding that it was both "beautiful" and "disturbing looking".

Some critics have said that what makes the series scary is that the hubots are so similar to human beings. In the show, household robot Mimi almost becomes a new member of the Engman family.

While the son falls in love with her, his sister starts to fear that the mother likes Mimi better than her.

"One reason why people could find the show scary is that it presents a future where robots are so similar to humans that they could end up replacing people," Swedish TV critic Rosemari Soedergren said.

"People have always had some kind of fear and suspicion about technology and machines."

Lundström admits he has no experience in the genre.

"I have consciously not consumed a lot of science fiction, because I was afraid I could be influenced by it," he said. "I saw my lack of background as a strength."

The show premiered on Sweden's public broadcaster SVT in 2012 and has run two seasons. Lundström said production costs are high and though he's working on a third season, he has faced difficulty in finding financing.

The same fine line between humans and hubots that sparked Lundström's interest became a challenge for the actors.

Those playing hubots have won praise but it was surprisingly exhausting, said Lisette Pagler who portrays Mimi, one of the more developed robots in Real Humans.

"We had to deal with tiny, tiny nuances," she said. "If it was too machine-like, the dialogue became uninteresting, and if it was too human, we were not credible as robots.

Mime artists were brought in to teach them how to control their movements.

We "didn't realise how frustrating it can be to remove all the human tics we have, to control them all the time. You need to be aware of when you blink, you can't scratch yourself, you can't make quick movements.

"I had never been so mentally tired after doing so little physical effort," she said.

"Sometimes we modified their voices, but it was mainly little noises and sounds and ticks which were really helpful in creating the illusion," Lundström said.

His team interviewed a robotics researcher at Stockholm's prestigious Royal Institute of Technology for help, but "we couldn't use any of it."

"Technology hasn't come as far as it had in our series, there is no science to rely on," he said. "We only had our fantasy to imagine what would happen if something like that were invented and began to be sold to people.

"But that's also what made it exciting," he said.

For more stories about Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Swedish WW2 soldier buried 70 yrs after death
Vetlanda church. Photo: Karin Thuresson

Swedish WW2 soldier buried 70 yrs after death

A Swedish soldier has been buried 70 years after he died fighting with Finland against Soviet troops during World War Two. Remarkably, his sister was still alive to attend the service. READ  

World's first limousine snowplough for hire
Håkan Andersson's limousine snowplough. Photo: Haga Limo

World's first limousine snowplough for hire

A businessman in central Sweden is advertising what he claims is the world’s first Hummer limousine snowplough for hire on Blocket, Sweden’s version of eBay. READ  

Breastmilk drug could fight resistant bacteria

Breastmilk drug could fight resistant bacteria

Swedish researchers may have found a solution to the growing resistance to antibiotics in the most unlikely of places — breastmilk. READ  

Video
Swedish baby wins TV fame in US
A screenshot of Alma and Maja before the collision from America's Funniest Home Videos

Swedish baby wins TV fame in US

A Swedish baby and her King Charles Spaniel scored more than three million views on America’s Funniest Home Videos in just one day, after the baby's father sent a video of the then six-month-old being bowled over by the puppy. READ  

Royal couple blames tax woes on identity theft
Princess Madeleine and Chris O'Neill in December 2014. Photo: TT

Royal couple blames tax woes on identity theft

Chris O'Neill, the British-American banker married to Sweden’s Princess Madeleine, has admitted to having had problems over unpaid US taxes, explaining that he had been the victim of identity theft. READ  

Up to four subs feared in Stockholm waters
An enlarged look at the mystery sighting of a suspected submarine in the Stockholm archipelago in October. Photo: TT

Up to four subs feared in Stockholm waters

Sweden’s armed forces now estimate that as many as four submarines were operating in the Stockholm Archipelago in mid-October, the country’s Dagens Industri (DI) newspaper reported on Saturday. READ  

Sweden mulls ticket controls for jihadis
The war in Syria and Iraq has attracted many young Swedish Muslims. Photo: STRINGER/Scanpix

Sweden mulls ticket controls for jihadis

Sweden could introduce controls over airline ticket sales and border crossings as part of a new anti-terror strategy aimed at preventing citizens going abroad to fight for extremist groups. READ  

'Frozen' hanging woman died 'climbing fence'
The fence in Norrköping where the woman was found hanging. Photo: TT

'Frozen' hanging woman died 'climbing fence'

A woman found hanging dead on a fence in Norrköping, about one hour south of Stockholm, was pierced by razor-sharp spikes, but probably ended up there 'by accident', police have concluded. READ  

Sweden's first LGBT pool makes a loud splash
Sweden's first LGBT swimming pool. Photo: Sundbyberg Stad

Sweden's first LGBT pool makes a loud splash

The first swimming pool in Sweden designed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is making waves in the Swedish media, ahead of its official opening next week. READ  

Princess Madeleine 'not involved in any debt'
Princess Madeleine at the Nobel Prize ceremony in December 2014. Photo: TT

Princess Madeleine 'not involved in any debt'

Sweden's royal family has strongly denied claims that Princess Madeleine's husband Chris O'Neill has debts in the US, saying the US tax authorities 'made a mistake'. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Society
Meet the 'beggars' buttoning up immigration critics
Lifestyle
What's on in Sweden this week
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Features
Learn Sweden's bizarre dating lingo
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Gallery
People-watching: January 21st - 22nd
Blog updates

23 January

Editor’s blog, January 23rd (The Local Sweden) »

"Happy Friday from The Local’s team in Stockholm. We can’t wait for the weekend, when we’re planning..." READ »

 

14 January

Adjectives and nouns (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hi there, The other day I got a question about combining adjectives and nouns: When you have a..." READ »

 
 
 
Lifestyle
'Life as a Swedish candy-maker is sweet'
Society
Why Sweden's viral 'genital' video is getting an English remake
Gallery
IN PICTURES: January snow snaps
National
Why does Sweden's Luleå have a giant ice beaver?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Who are Sweden's richest one percent?
Business & Money
How a classic Swedish snack got a revamp for 'busy' Stockholmers
Lifestyle
The Local's top Swedish acts for 2015
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's Årets Bild photography prize winners
Business & Money
'I met my Swedish man in Tokyo's first Ikea store'
Gallery
Property of the week: A cozy apartment in Bromma, Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: January 17th - 18th
Lifestyle
How to make Swedish gravad lax
Lifestyle
Four hot Swedish home design trends
National
How The Local's video on a strange Swedish sound went viral
Gallery
People-watching: January 14th
National
The Local's guide to Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Politics
Paris attacks: Knock-on effects in Sweden and across Europe
National
Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo magazine
National
The Local talks to Sweden's Home Affairs Minister about Paris attacks
Business & Money
Will Spotify launch on stock market after users rocket?
Accelerated
Texans and Swedes to play ice instruments
Gallery
Property of the week: An 18th century mansion in Stockholm
Business & Money
'Snowboarding drew me to work in chilly Sweden'
National
Are Sweden's royals moving to London?
National
How Sweden's Charlie Hebdo rally broke a winter protest record
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Princess Madeleine through the years
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Stockholm's 'no pants' subway day 2015
Gallery
People-watching: January 10th - 11th
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Stockholm holds Charlie Hebdo rally
National
Have you seen Sweden's viral children's 'genital' song?
National
Mother of 'Superman' victim warns of ecstasy drug trend in Sweden
National
Are wolves on the loose in the Swedish capital?
Gallery
People-watching: January 7th
National
Stockholmers discuss why they joined global Paris shooting vigils
Gallery
IN PICTURES: Sweden's reaction to Paris magazine shootings
National
The best Swedish songs of the month
National
Ten Swedes who made a lasting impact on the United States
National
The Local meets northern Sweden's frozen Roma beggars
Sponsored Article
Everything you need to know about moving to Stockholm
Sponsored Article
How to jump-start your career in southern Sweden
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

1,104
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se
Counselling and Psychotherapy in English
Sometimes living in another culture can cause stress, confusion and feelings of sadness and loneliness. Talking to a professional psychotherapist/counsellor might help you. I am a UKCP Reg. psychotherapist. My practice is in Södermalm, Stockholm.
Contact me to discuss your options