The focus of my inquiry in this article is the figure of the Human that is enacted in the design of the humanoid robot. The humanoid or anthropomorphic robot is a model (in)organism, engineered in the roboticist’s laboratory in ways that both align with and diverge from the model organisms of biology. Like other model organisms, the laboratory robot’s life is inextricably infused with its inherited materialities and with the ongoing – or truncated – labours of its affiliated humans. But while animal models are rendered progressively more standardised and replicable as tools for the biological sciences, the humanoid robot is individuated and naturalised. Three stagings of human–robot encounters (with the robots Mertz, Kismet and Robota respectively) demonstrate different possibilities for conceptualising these subject objects, for the claims about humanness that they corporealise, and for the kinds of witnessing that they presuppose.