• 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
Sweden builds future as EU construction falls
Sweden's Prime Minister (centre) and Green Party co-leader Åsa Romsen. Photo:TT

Sweden builds future as EU construction falls

The building industry in Sweden is experiencing a boom as the country's housing crisis continues, bucking the trend for a dip in construction across the EU. READ  

No charges after 'attack' at Swedish rail station
A screenshot of the controversial incident from YouTube.

No charges after 'attack' at Swedish rail station

Two police security guards filmed having a controversial altercation with a refugee child at Malmö train station in southern Sweden in February will not face charges. READ  

Migrant boat tragedy
'Swedes will compare this to the Holocaust'
Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström. Photo: TT

'Swedes will compare this to the Holocaust'

A Swedish MEP is stepping up a pan-European cross-party campaign for "legal and safe routes to Europe" for migrants in the wake of the latest Mediterranean boat disaster. Cecilia Wikström, has told The Local that EU member states are currently doing so little to help guarantee safe passage that future generations will compare their actions to Sweden "turning a blind eye" to the Holocaust. READ  

Swedish streaker strikes at Skellefteå wedding
A different streaker in Sydney in 2008. Photo: Rob Griffith/TT

Swedish streaker strikes at Skellefteå wedding

UPDATED: A man in his forties ran naked into a wedding ceremony in Skellefteå in northern Sweden over the weekend, following a bet with the groom. The officiant at the wedding has bared all to The Local. READ  

Swedish baby groups help immigrant parents
Parenthood in a foreign country can feel lonely. Photo: Shutterstock

Swedish baby groups help immigrant parents

Sweden has just been rated the top place in the world for expats to raise families, as The Local reported last week. But there is a flip side and immigrant parents often report feeling isolated from their native neighbours, so some Swedes are helping to break the ice. READ  

Sunshine should stay across Sweden all week
Blue skies in Hornstull, Stockholm this weekend. Photo: The Local

Sunshine should stay across Sweden all week

Dig out your sunglasses. This weekend's warm weather is set to stick around in the coming days, with some parts of Sweden reaching 20C. READ  

US student sues Swedish college for tuition fees
Students studying in Sweden. Photo: Magnus Liam Karlsson/imagebank.sweden.se

US student sues Swedish college for tuition fees

An American mathematics student has sued a Swedish university for rejecting her calls to repay tuition fees after she slammed course organizers for low quality of teaching and such poor logistics that students had to sit on the floor. READ  

My Swedish Career
'Cultural events aren't as common as you expect'
Laura Pertuy preparing leaflets for the French Film Festival. Photo: The Local

'Cultural events aren't as common as you expect'

Parisian Laura Pertuy, 27, helped relaunch Stockholm's French Film Festival this month and is hoping to forge closer links between the two European countries closest to her heart as she embarks on a new life in Sweden. READ  

Migrant boat tragedy
Refugees in Sweden fear for families lost at sea
Italian coastguard officers on Monday. Photo: Lino Azzopardi/TT

Refugees in Sweden fear for families lost at sea

UPDATED: As around 700 refugees remain missing after this weekend's shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea, devastated relatives in Sweden have told of their anxious wait to find out if their loved ones are dead or alive. READ  

Full refuges reject five battered women a day
File photo: TT

Full refuges reject five battered women a day

Women's shelters in Sweden remain under pressure with a new report indicating that five women a day were turned away in 2014 due to over-crowding. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching: April 18th
National
Syria claims ‘most dangerous’ Isis leaders are Scandinavian
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
"You may only do something once, but do it 100%"
National
Swedish researchers pore over link between coffee and cancer
Features
What you can buy in Sweden for the price of a London shed
Blog updates

17 April

Editor’s blog, April 17th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, After several days of social media buzz about an upcoming announcement from Abba’s Björn Ulvaeus,..." READ »

 

15 April

Gång, timme, tid & dags (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! In this article I will talk about “gång”, “timmar”, “dags” and “tid”, because they all translate..." READ »

 
 
 
National
What's on in Sweden this week
Swedish Hasbeens
Sponsored Article
Is the world wrong to connect Sweden with sexiness?
National
Swedes launch first donut into space
Politics
Is Sweden returning to 1990s social democratic welfare politics?
National
Mamma Mia! Abba entertainment venue set to open in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: April 15th
National
Why Sweden is top place in the world for expats to raise children
National
Swedish 'submarine' was civilian boat
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
National
Why has a US town got pulled into a Swedish spelling row?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hovås, Gothenburg
National
What does Zlatan think of his ban?
Sponsored Article
Does far-north Sweden have to punch above its weight?
National
Swedish teenagers help rebuild Breivik massacre island
National
Would you live in a steel box?
National
How an act of kindness by one Syrian immigrant went viral
Gallery
People-watching: April 8th
National
Swedish bids for Billboard fame
National
Swedish monkeys denied Saudi visas
National
Sunny spring weather predicted
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
National
Half of Swedes want begging ban
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
National
Why are expats less likely to settle down with Swedes?
Sport
What does Sweden think of Zlatan's recent outburst?
Society
Get to grips with Sweden's most bizarre Easter traditions
Gallery
People-watching: April 1st
National
The Local's best April Fools' gags
National
US spy agency to feature in new 'Stieg Larsson' book sequel
National
Beaver bite at Swedish bus stop
Gallery
Property of the week: Åreda
National
How this Syrian travelled to Sweden
Was Swedish TV host too harsh on nationalist leader Åkesson?
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Scandinavian airlines change cockpit rules after Germanwings crash
National
Sweden remembers Nobel laureate Tomas Tranströmer
Politics
Why petrol prices are going up
Gallery
People-watching: March 28th
Stieg Larsson's partner blasts Millennium trilogy sequel
Society
How to never miss your favourite weekly features on The Local
Gallery
People-watching: March 25th
National
Which words are changing in Sweden's latest dictionary?
National
Is this house 'un-Swedish'?
National
Sweden pays tribute to victims of Germanwings Alps crash
Sponsored Article
Ten tips for succeeding as a start-up in 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

3,351
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