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robot history
jan 14, 2009
robot history


automated machines which led to the development of the industrial robots currently available today.

in the greek myth pygmalion, king of cyprus, is a sculptor who fell in love with his
ivory statue of a woman. his passion was so overwhelming, that he asked aphrodite
to transform the statue into a living person.

one of the earliest documented automata makers was hero of alexandria,
a greek mathematician, physicist and engineer who lived in 10-70 AD.
descriptions on various automata (automaton meaning: moving itself) are included in
see hero’s pneumatics here

leonardo da vinci sketched a complex automaton around the year 1495.
the design of leonardo’s robot was not rediscovered until the 1950s.
the robot, which appears in hiss sketches, could, if built successfully,
move its arms, twist its head, and sit up.

 

 


this medieval robot was built by roboticist mark rosheim from leonardo’s drawings
for a discovery channel program.
see the device here and
here

 

 

the world’s first successfully-built biomechanical automaton is considered to be

the flute player, invented by the french engineer jacques de vaucanson in 1737.
he also constructed a mechanical duck.
 
 


jaques de vaucanson’s mechanical duck, 1738
it had over 400 moving parts, and could flap its wings, drink water, digest grain, and defecate

 

 

in 1769, a chess-playing machine called ‘the turk’ was created by the austro-hungarian author
and inventor wolfgang von kempelen. the turk made the rounds of the courts of europe
and was exhibited from 1770 for over 84 years, by various owners, purporting to be an automaton,
but later explained, after its destruction by fire in 1854 as an elaborate hoax. the turk was operated
from inside by a hidden human director, and was not a true automaton.
read more here

 

 

image of a copper engraving from karl gottlieb von windisch, 1783

 

 

designed by the canadian inventor george moore in 1893, this life-size (6-foot tall) steam-powered android
was constructed of tin. an exhaust pipe led from the engine to the nose of the figure, from whence steam
escaped when the machine was in motion. The body contained a motor and a gear train for motion.

 

 


moore’s steam man

 

 

the term ‘robot’ derived from a czech word ‘robota’, meaning ‘drudgery’ or
‘slave-like labor’. it was first used to describe fabricated workers in a fictional
1921 play by czech author karel capek entitled ‘rossum’s universal robots’.
in the story, a scientist invents robots to help people by performing simple,
repetitive tasks.

for the new york world’s fair 1939, westinghouse electric corp. builds a mechanical
man ‘elektro’. humanoid in appearance, the robot relied on a combination of motors,
photoelectric cells, telephone relays and record players to perform 26 preprogrammed routines,
each one initiated by voice commands from a human co-star. these were spoken into a telephone
connected to the robot’s chest, where circuitry converted each syllable into a pulse of light and
transmitted it to a photoelectric cell. a second circuit added up the syllables and triggered relays
to operate the corresponding electromechanical functions: a command with three syllables,
for example, would start the robot’s routine, and four syllables would stop it.
as part of these routines, elektro would raise and lower his arms, turn his head, move his mouth,
count on his fingers and even smoke a cigarette and puff out smoke. his photoelectric eyes
could distinguish red and green light.
read more here and here

 

 


the original elektro appeared in the film ‘sex kittens go to college’ (he played thinko, the greatest electronic brain
in the world)

 

 


inside

 

 

you-tube video footage of elektro at the 1939 world’s fair

but real robots wouldn’t become possible until the 1950s and 1960s,
with the invention of transistors and integrated circuits.
garco was created in 1953 by the american inventor harvey chapman.
the robot was built from discarded aircraft parts andoperated by remote control.

 

 


garco

 

 


romolo II was exhibited in rome in 1957.
he reacted to external stimuli, his eyes consisted of camera lenses and his body was
built with sensors
.

 

 

bipedal movement is essentially a continuous, controlled fall that’s avoided only by
precisely timing each step. people do it without thinking, so it seems simple.
but the computational horsepower needed to prevent a biped bot from falling on
its face is considerable. early mobile robots had to drag a cable connecting them to
a big computer. see designboom’s history article ‘robot sapiens’, compiled back in 2001.

a rusted symbol of a once-promised technical and social progress:
a massive statue of a robot stands outside the former soviet-era synthetic rubber factory
in sumgayit, azerbaijan

 

 


rena effendi’s photo of a massive statue of a robot

 

 

 

related:

john palmisano estimated that about 50,000 people are interested in robotics
online per day but he also found out that the number of robotics related
google searches has been dropping year on year. in the last four years
it has dropped an average of about 40%!
it seems that most hobbyists are under the age of 20 and over the age of 40.
85% are estimated male.
read more here

designboom’s history article ‘robot sapiens’, compiled back in 2001
designboom’s article ‘female robots’
designboom’s article ‘all you need to know about robots’
see robot videos here
pre-golden-age robots

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