From the Jetsons’ futurist maid, Rosey, to the Terminator and the Transformers, movies about the role smart robots can play in our lives have captured the imagination.

At noon Saturday, Jan. 18, Enzian Theater will present Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE” as part of a series called Science on the Screen. University of Central Florida associate professor Kenneth Stanley will introduce the film with a talk about what’s really possible when it comes to artificial intelligence versus Hollywood’s vision.

While we aren’t likely to see human-looking robots in the next few years, there are some exciting developments, Stanley said.

“We’re beginning to understand how to create complex, brain-like programs inside computers, which are enabling robots and vehicles to operate increasingly without the help of humans,” Stanley said. “ Intelligent computers are also becoming more creative and contributing to industrial design, art, video games, and even music.”

Stanley runs the Evolutionary Complexity Research Group at the university. The research focuses on abstracting the essential properties of natural evolution that made it possible to discover astronomically complex structures such as the human brain. His works in artificial intelligence and evolutionary computation have been cited more than 4,000 times by other researchers. Stanley developed a genetic algorithm that generates evolving artificial networks. He also developed a technique to help create an artificial brain’s complex network, a necessary component for AI.

Other teams working around the world have made some significant gains that are already producing prototypes that are helping complete tasks. Among some of the most notable examples are two robots on the International Space Station. Kirobo, made in Japan, is only 13 inches tall and is named after an Astro Boy character. In December it had a televised conversation with a Japanese astronaut about what it wanted from Santa Claus. Meanwhile, a U.S.-made Robonaut, named R2, helps astronauts handle small tools. Back on earth, another robot called Raven, is being studied for its potential use in enhancing the safety of heart surgery.

Stanley said it is an exciting time in the area of artificial intelligence and during the talk on Saturday he will share some of the current and future possibilities and how they may even exceed Hollywood’s vision.

Ken Stanley office June 2011

The talk and viewing is part of a series funded with a grant from the Coolidge Corner Theatre, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The goal is to help bridge the public’s understanding and appreciation of the sciences and arts. For more information about the Science on the Screen program and upcoming movies visit the Enzian.

The cost to attend Saturday’s event is $5 for Enzian members and $8 for the general public.