What once was thought impossible, seems to be closer than ever – robots. Or as ‘Hi, A.I.‘ likes to address them, Artificial Intelligence. In German filmmaker Isabella Willinger‘s (Away From All Suns), we get to meet different individuals ready to embrace this technology for personal companionship or that of others.

Dental students working on a moving robot with real human teeth that reacts to stimuli – as an opening, this is quite the scene out of a horror movie. We quickly get introduced to Pepper, a robot with a very simple design and a tablet interface attached to his chest. Pepper is now part of a Japanese family, mostly here for Gran to talk to when she’s all by herself. The family discusses if they should connect Pepper to the internet, but unanimously decide it’s better not to tamper with his character. Gran likes Pepper’s childlike-voice, but soon realises he’s more self-centred than she’d like him to be, mostly ignoring her questions.

On the other side of the planet we meet Chuck, who’s just on his way to pick up his humanoid companion robot, Harmony. The factory worker explains how he should pick her up and when demonstrating how it’s a lot easier when he detaches her head, Chuck fully creeped out decides he’ll do it the hard way and just carry her under her arms. Together they embark on a road trip in his RV, where he starts a convo resulting in a misunderstanding and over-explaining a simple word such as “while”. Harmony could easily have been the embodiment of Apple’s Siri. That doesn’t stop Chuck from falling head-over-heels in love with her and opening up about his tragic past as a child.

Multiple other interesting designs barely get any screen time and that’s absolutely fine. From an information desk robot who gives presentations on Tokyo City and sings songs at specific times throughout the day, to an absolutely adorable silver balloon type of robot with the skinniest wirelike legs, climbing and hopping up and down stairs. In the meantime scientists and A.I.-experts discuss humanoid robots and how we are headed towards a robot society, baring the question on why robots have to look so much like humans.

Through the use of podcast recordings and following the whereabouts of Chuck and Harmony, and Pepper and his new family, ‘Hi, A.I.‘ stays fascinating until the very end. Doomsday scenarios and the usefulness of artificial intelligence discussions never go in-depth, since most of these speculations are based on fear without any concrete evidence.

Hi, A.I. gives you some food for thought. Artificial Intelligence isn’t something from the past anymore, it’s here and only growing expeditiously towards entering our daily lives. Ethical concerns aside, the stories portrayed here are sweet and wholesome. The positive and negative changes on human behaviour are in need of more studies, but in the meantime I think saving our planet is more of a concern to us, than worrying about Blade Runner-type futures.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

‘Hi, A.I.’ is screening as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival:

  • Palace Chauvel, Oct. 25 at 7pm
  • Palace Verone, Oct. 27 at 2pm

Tickets are still available: https://tix.antennafestival.org/Events/Hi-AI/Fri-Oct-25-2019-19-00

Antenna Documentary Film Festival Review – ‘Hi, A.I.’

Reviewed from online screener (provided by publicity team), also showing as part of Antenna Documentary Film Festival, Sydney, Oct. 24, 2019. Running time: 90 min.

PRODUCTION: A Rise and Shine Release from a Kloos & Co. Medien GmbH production. Producer: Stefan Kloos.

CREW: Director: Isabella Willinger. Camera (color, widescreen): Julian Krubasik. Editors: Stephan Krumbiegel, Olaf Voigtländer.

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