• 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
Eurovision 2016
Palestine envoy angry at 'insulting' flag ban
The Palestinian flag (left) was included on the same banned list as that of Islamic State (right)

The Palestinian Ambassador to Sweden has waded into the row over a Eurovision ban on the Palestinian flag calling it "insulting" and "a big mistake".

US election
Miss Sweden hits back at Obama Trump gibe
Former Miss World Camilla Hansson and Donald Trump. Photo: Camillahansson.org and Michael Vadon/Flickr

US presidential hopeful Donald Trump is "a likeable person" with “good leadership skills", according to a Swedish beauty pageant winner.

Say 'hej hej hej' to some Swedish sunshine
Stockholmers enjoying a previous spring heatwave in 2014. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

UPDATED: Temperatures are set to top 20C in parts of Sweden this week.

Swedish police Roma register 'not illegal'
A beggar in Stockholm. Photo: Leif Blom/TT

Roma in Sweden are deemed “a very exposed group”.

IN PICTURES
Fire rips through apartment block, 157 homes evacuated
The fire on Sunday night. Photo: Anna Hållams/TT

There's a risk the whole building could collapse, emergency services say.

'This would not have happened if I was white'
Yasri Khan. Photo: Marc Femenia/SCANPIX

Former Swedish Muslim politician explains reluctance to shake hands with women as "about my struggle to be allowed to be myself".

Teen boy in sex assault at Swedish asylum home
Silbodalshemmet, the large asylum centre in Årjäng, Värmland. Police have not yet named the centre. Photo: Google Maps

Five men have been arrested after a teenage boy was assaulted.

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Photo: Simon Paulin/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden is famous for work-life balance. So what do startups do to make sure expat employees are happy with life in Stockholm?

My Swedish Career
Meet the expat who is now Sweden's youngest PhD
Stefan Buijsman. Photo: Anna-Karin Landin

Stefan Buijsman, 20, just finished a PhD in the philosophy of mathematics. He tells The Local what his work is all about, and why Stockholm was the best place to do it.

Border checks
Sweden fights for EU border controls to stay
Checks on passengers at Kastrup airport in Copenhagen, close to the border with Sweden. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

The Nordic nation is among six countries asking the European Commission to extend temporary border controls.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
Features
How to be a cool Swede during a hot summer
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
People-watching: April 29th - May 1st
Analysis & Opinion
Why Sweden's fretting about Brexit
Blog updates

29 April

Editor’s blog, April 29th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hello readers, Relations between Sweden and Russia went from slightly strained to full-on James Bond this…" READ »

 

18 April

A day as a guard (The Diplomatic Dispatch) »

"Life as an Ambassador. Driven around in the Jaguar. Visits all planned so you go straight…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
Kista: The best office space in Sweden?
National
INTERVIEW: Swedish police officer 'beat me up and used racial slurs'
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
Gallery
People-watching: April 27th
National
Öresund bridge border checks net record number of drink drivers
National
Swedes bid farewell to iconic Volvo
Sponsored Article
Why international researchers love to call Malmö home
Gallery
Property of the week: Enköping
Sponsored Article
‘Life in Stockholm’s suburbs is better than people realize’
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd-24th
Politics
Could Brits in Europe stop Brexit?
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
National
The first official picture of Sweden's new royal Prince Alexander
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
National
Sweden's Sami reindeer still live in the shadow of Chernobyl
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 20th
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
National
Why was a Nazi flag hoisted in a Swedish town on Hitler's birthday?
Sponsored Article
Sigtunaskolan: 'The best of what Sweden has to offer'
National
How did Sweden's deputy PM get in trouble over New York comments?
Sponsored Article
'I may work at a Swedish company, but we’re global'
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 16th-17th
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: Stockholm's secret dating scene
Culture
Sweden finally axes historic dancing ban
Sponsored Article
'Swedes must realize only soft power can defeat radicalism'
International
Have you phoned Sweden yet?
Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 13th
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
National
Is booze going up in Sweden?
National
How Sweden's fake 'smombie' traffic sign is being used for real
Culture
Sweden's Tarzan drops trousers
Finest
Gallery
People-watching: April 9th-10th
3,279
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