• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Sci-fi robot drama new Swedish global success

AFP/The Local · 18 Jul 2014, 09:07

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.

Story continues below…

"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 news from Sweden, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Brexit: Sweden’s leaders meet for talks about 'our friend'
Ebba Busch Thor outside the PM's office before Monday morning's talks. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

“The UK is our friend and we have to respect the decision.”

Brexit vote
Swedish stock market plummets in Brexit aftermath
The Stockholm Stock Exchange felt the full force of Brexit on Monday morning. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Monday is the first day of trading in Sweden since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and negative effects are already being felt.

Why this Swedish canal was filled with dead rats
Malmö's canals were not for the squeamish on Sunday. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

The canals of Kungsparken in southern Swedish city Malmö were filled with unwelcome guests at the weekend.

Brexit vote
Poll: Sweden still wants to stay in EU after Brexit vote
Most Swedes polled don't want a referendum on EU membership. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

A post-Brexit poll shows that the majority of Swedes would still vote to stay in the EU.

My Swedish Career
'I was only supposed to stay in Sweden for a few months'
Dan Paech, the founder of Run With Me Stockholm. Photo: Private

Meet Dan Paech, 31, the Australian who found his entrepreneurial path in Stockholm.

Sweden murder probe after refugee centre death
One person had been detained and other potential witnesses were being questioned. Photo: TT

Swedish police on Sunday launched a murder investigation after a young woman was found dead at a shelter housing asylum-seekers.

Sweden trials electrified highway for trucks
The truck draws power as it moves at speeds of up to 90km/h (56mph) while putting out no emissions. Photo: Scania AB

The Swedish truck firm Scania, in partnership with German engineering company, Siemens, is developing the world’s first “eHighway”, a four kilometre stretch of highway north of Stockholm.

Brexit vote
Sweden opposition cools talk of 'Swexit' poll
Anna Kinberg Batra, of the largest opposition party, the Moderates. Photo: TT

"This is a sad day for the British and for Europe."

Brexit vote
Swedish PM swats aside calls for EU renegotiation
"Sweden will now lose an important partner in the EU," Löfven said. Photo: TT

Left Party calls "totally irresponsible."

Brexit vote
'Devastated' - Brits in Sweden shocked by Brexit vote

Expat Brits in Sweden have reacted with shock, despair and uncertainty to the result of the EU referendum in the UK which was won 52-48 by the Leave campaign.

Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Culture
How do Swedes celebrate Midsummer?
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Culture
Coming soon: Sweden’s smelly fermented fish
National
Assange lawyer: Sweden should recognize UN opinion
Blog updates

17 June

Queen’s Birthday Stockholm 2016: 9th June. 90th Birthday. 900 Guests! (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"What do you do when you read that the Queen’s 90th Birthday in London will be…" READ »

 

10 June

i lördags, på lördag – time phrases for present, past and future (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hejsan! Swedish time phrases can be difficult to master. It takes a lot of practice to…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Stockholm school celebrates Nepal Project success
Private
The Local Voices
Why is this Syrian dentist who hugs like a Swede worried about undies?
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Swedish nationalist 'shot and ate' lion and giraffe
Analysis & Opinion
'Sweden's residency revamp is harmful and inhumane'
Photo: The Local
The Local Voices
UNHCR boss: 'It's hard to start your life without your family'
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Politics
VIDEO: Brits in Europe say why UK should stay
Photo: Marko Risović
The Local Voices
World Refugee Day: Searching for safety in Europe - in pictures
National
Is Swedish nationalists’ foreign food ban bananas?
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Gallery
Property of the week: Söråker
Sponsored Article
The man behind Sweden's biggest music festival
International
Poll shows huge support for EU in Sweden
The Local Voices
How a Syrian scuba diver mobilized Sweden's biggest asylum centre
Sponsored Article
US expats: Have you met your tax deadlines?
Sport
Zlatan: 'If we'd been fighting for real, he'd be in hospital'
Sponsored Article
Malmö: Home to the best food in Sweden?
The Local Voices
Orlando reflections: Is it possible to be gay and Muslim?
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
Sweden to go ahead with migrant age tests
Sponsored Article
5 reasons you should try dating with The Inner Circle
Gallery
People-watching: June 17th-19th
National
Will you be hit by changes to Sweden's residency laws?
Sponsored Article
6 simple travel hacks that will make your life easier
The Local Voices
Why an Iraqi who won Swedish lottery won't quit his restaurant job
Gallery
People-watching: Midweek revellers
National
Why this pizzeria is giving elderly Swedes free meatballs
3,307
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