Promobot is a Russian robotics startup that describes itself as the largest manufacturer of so-called ‘service robots’ in Northern and Eastern Europe. One of those products is a ‘companion robot’ called Robo-C, that it says can be manufactured to look like any celebrity, especially the ones that might perform menial household tasks.
“Marilyn Monroe will meet guests, William Shakespeare will tell children fairytales, and Cristiano Ronaldo will manage the smart home system,” its website promises. Although some of its unsettling lookalikes seem to only exist in online renderings, it actually has created a working robotic bust of Arnold Schwarzenegger, which has made appearances at CES and at the New York Toy Fair.
“Arnold Schwarzenegger will meet your guests, turn on the light and turn the kettle on,” Promobot writes. But the real Arnold Schwarzenegger just sent the company a cease and desist letter that basically says, “like HELL I will.”
Digital Trends, which saw the Schwarzenneger robot in February, said that the robot speaks in an unexpected British accent, but that it could “definitely pass for Arnold.” (Although its eyes appear to be wordlessly asking, if not begging, someone to please kill it, to please just take it out of this world.)
Regardless of how wonky the likeness is, that bust is clearly trying to look like Schwarzenegger—and, to him, that’s the problem. TMZ reports that he didn’t give permission for Promobot to use a rubberized version of his face on its products, nor did he OK it for use in the company’s promotional efforts.
According to his legal filing, that unauthorized use of his face “diminishes his hard-earned and well-deserved reputation as a major motion picture star." (The lawsuit also alleges that Promobot asked Schwarzenegger to pose for a photo with the robot when he was in St. Petersburg last year, but he declined.)
Schwarzenegger wants a legal injunction that would block Promobot from recreating him on the Robo-C, in addition to $10 million—the amount he says he would’ve requested if they had asked for permission to use his likeness—and any profits that the company made from the Arnold-ized robot. He is also seeking punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
Promobot allegedly told Schwarzenegger that it would stop dragging “him” out in public or setting him up at trade shows, but that promise seemed to have been forgotten at some point before the New York Toy Fair.
The company’s website is still taking orders for other, non-Arnold Robo-Cs (although as of this writing, the reference to Schwarzenegger turning the light and the kettle on is still online.) “The robot is a completely anthropomorphic machine. It copies human facial expressions: can move its eyes, eyebrows, lips and other ‘muscles,’ and also keep the conversation going and answer questions,” Promobot says.
“The technology developed by Promobot as well as its own patented design has over 600 facial expressions that allow the robot to mimic a human appearance.”
But getting your own piece of the uncanny valley isn’t cheap: Each Robo-C reportedly costs between $25,000 and $50,000. But can you really put a price on making your house look like it’s being haunted by the ghost of Planet Hollywood?